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Employers, if you’ve got a blanket ban on recruiting people with unspent convictions, just tell us

Despite disclosing his unspent conviction on two occasions, Isaac was amazed to learn that his new employer had withdrawn their job offer due to a blanket ban on the recruitment of people with unspent convictions.

I met my ex-girlfriend when we were studying for our ‘A’ levels and we were together until the start of my second year at university. By then, I knew that once I’d finished my degree I would be moving to London to pursue a career in management consultancy and I was totally driven in my desire to secure a graduate position with a global management consultancy firm.

Call me selfish but I knew that I would have little time for girlfriends and so, not wishing to ‘lead her on’, I ended the relationship.

It became clear that she’d thought our relationship was forever and she was absolutely distraught when I told her it was over. Like many men, I didn’t know how to deal with her tears or emotion and when she begged me to stay over so that we could talk things through, I couldn’t see how that would make things any better. As I tried to walk out, she clung onto me shouting and screaming at me; I pushed her away and left.

The next day, the police turned up at my house and I was arrested for an alleged assault on my girlfriend. At the police station I had an opportunity to speak to the duty solicitor and I explained everything to him. I was really upset to think that I might have caused her any harm (I certainly hadn’t intended to) and although being charged with common assault seemed harsh, I readily accepted that I had pushed her. The solicitor recommended that I plead guilty. He thought that I’d probably get a fine but importantly, it would mean that my girlfriend wouldn’t have to attend court and we could both get on with our lives.

Sadly, that wasn’t what happened and I walked out of court with a 6 month community order and a restraining order. I finished the unpaid work requirement quickly and before I knew it, the community order had come to an end.

I continued to study hard and went on to get a first.

A year and a half after I’d been to court I applied for my basic DBS check. I had just started applying for graduate positions and wanted to have my blank DBS certificate to share with future employers if I needed to. However, when my certificate arrived it wasn’t blank. I hadn’t realised that the 3 year restraining order I’d received had a rehabilitation order all of it’s own which meant that my conviction was still unspent.

Although this was a huge disappointment, I couldn’t do anything about it and I needed to remain focused on my end goal. So, instead of getting down and depressed I spent time thinking about the best way of disclosing my conviction.

I applied for several graduate posts including one with the organisation I’d always wanted to work for. There were no questions on the application form asking about unspent convictions and at the time, I took this to be an encouraging sign.

I was invited to attend an interview which went very well and when I was asked at the end if I had any questions it felt like the right time to disclose my conviction. The interview panel thanked me for my honesty and told me that if I were successful they would carry out background checks and it may be necessary for me to disclose again.

A month later, I was in receipt of two job offers, one of them being from my preferred organisation. Before accepting the offer, I wanted to know for sure that my criminal record wouldn’t be an issue and so I made an appointment to speak with one of the HR managers. During that meeting, I disclosed my conviction again and was told:

I can’t see it being a problem but we’ll have to wait until the background checks have been done.

Knowing that my DBS would merely confirm what I’d already told them, I felt slightly more reassured and the same day turned down the job offer from the second employer.

The background checks took a while but I eventually received an email stating that the employer now had all the information they needed and would be in touch shortly with a start date. Two days later I could barely contain my excitement when I saw another email in my inbox from my new employer. However, rather than setting out details of my start date, the email stated that the job offer was being withdrawn due to my unspent conviction. The letter went on to say that this decision was final.

I have since had numerous conversations with the employer about their policy in relation to the employment of people with a criminal record and it seems clear that they have a blanket ban on the recruitment of anybody with an unspent conviction. I find it incredible that having disclosed my conviction on two occasions, nobody thought to tell me that my application could not be progressed. I would obviously have been disappointed but I’d have come to terms with that and applied elsewhere.

This failure to be upfront at the start has meant that I’ve turned down a job with another employer who may not have had a problem with my criminal record. I’ve been left out of pocket with my confidence at an all time low.

By Isaac (name changed to protect identity)

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