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Recruitment agencies expecting ‘clear’ disclosures

When it comes to jobs that are exempt from the Rehabilitation of offenders Act, the law says you still need to disclose on an application form when asked about spent cautions or convictions regardless to however minor. In my case I will discuss about a caution from this point.

My caution was in 2012. It is minor and does not have any relevance to working with vulnerable people.

I applied for jobs to 4 different agencies on line and sent my CV with covering letters for Care Assistant roles with elderly people. I have lots of skills/experience and recruiters would always invite me down for the actual interviews. At all those interviews I had to fill out an application form and as they state they will apply for a DBS, I was aware I had to disclose the caution. Once this was put to paper on application, I was advised I would be contacted for a follow up interview and to apply for DBS and if successful will be put forward for training. I found I never heard from any of those agencies again.

I did not want to give up and saw an agency advertising for work. I sent them my CV and a covering letter. The same sequence happened, I received an email arranging an interview etc and asking me to bring proof of my identity.

However this time round, I decided to email the person back from HR as I noted that the email stated that they would need to apply for DBS if I am successful at interview and I did not want to go through the same time wasting exercise again, to not hear from them again after interview. So I decided to email the lady from HR, advising that I am currently waiting on DBS which my local authority had applied and paid for due to some work I was currently doing as a ‘Personal Assistant’.

I received a phone call from this lady from HR. She basically advised I should bring my DBS to the interview if it comes through. She told me she did not feel it had any relevance to the job I was applying for but said I can still go to the interview as it should not be a problem. She said it would basically all depend on whether I was successful or not and then taken from there.

I attended the interview a week later and I was successful at interview. I was told by the interviewer they would need to apply for a fresh DBS. She gave me a letter signed by her manager stating I was successful and a date to start the training for the following week, and pending my references and DBS check to be completed. I had also disclosed to her at the interview about my caution and she told me she did not feel it had relevance to the post but ultimately was down to the Director to make any decision, depending what comes up on DBS. She also appeared to already know about it when I told her as she said it ‘rang a bell’. I assumed the HR lady who I spoke to initially had already spoken to them about it in advance, prior to my interview I left there happy and looking forward to start the training.

Come Monday morning. I checked my emails and there was an email from the woman who interviewed me. She wished me good luck in her email for the future and referred me to ‘see letter attached’. I opened the attachment and there was a rejection letter. The rejection letter stated about them having many candidates that applied for the role who had more experience than me and they were sorry that I was ‘unsuccessful’ for the position.

I telephoned her and asked whether the email was sent in error and she said it was not. She said that a contract had ended and they didn’t have enough work coming in and that any work they did have had to go to the employees that were already on their books. She said she didn’t know there was not enough work until her manager raised it. She was quick to say she would shred all my paperwork. I knew she was lying as the information she was giving me on the phone contradicted the information she sent me in an email At the end of that week, I was job searching on line and came across a large advertisement from this same company on line, in many areas surrounding my borough. It was obvious to me that they had not lost any contracts and there was lots of work available.

It appeared their reluctance & change of mind was related to the minor caution that had no relation to this job or any impact to working with vulnerable elderly people, except of course if I applied to work in a prison. I decided to telephone the woman I had spoken to at the very beginning before my interview, where I had initially disclosed the caution to. I told this lady from HR about the confusion I had, in being told different theories to why they changed their mind. I also added the fact they gave me a firm offer in writing stating I was successful with a training date. I pointed out that it was obvious to me there was no issues with losing contracts as there was a big advertisement on line and plenty of work! The lady I spoke to from HR remembered me because she remembered advising me to bring my DBS that was pending with the LA and the disclosure I made in an email. She asked me some questions relating to my caution and I spent some time talking to her for about 15 minutes. She suggested she would speak with her manager and then get back to me. She also asked me to forward to her the email and rejection letter I received.

The following week I received a phone call from the above persons’ Manager as promised. I was told the offer still stood and I can do the training. From what I understood I was advised the position would merely be dependent on what was on my DBS. I replied I had already informed them in advance what may well be on there.

She said the person who interviewed me and sent me the rejection letter after offering me the position was new and because I had made a disclosure she thought they were unable to take me on because their policy is that a DBS ‘should be clear’. She said in my case it all is dependent on what is on there.

I then went on to say that I had been up front about what may show up when a DBS comes in before the interview and at the interview and I have already explained what the caution is for.
I explained again it is not a conviction. I agreed to do the training and take it from there. She emailed me offering me the opportunity to do the training and I responded as she asked to confirm I will do the training but I did get the impression that they were covering up for each other as I did not feel it was right to automatically prejudice someone because of a caution.
I also am concerned that it was said a ‘DBS should be clear’. Obviously in my case it is not going to be clear because a caution is likely to show up, I am still left feeling uneasy for when the time comes when the DBS is processed and concluded.

In the meantime I have carried out some training with another organisation for work relating to vulnerable people and do not finish this training until next week. This is not care work like the other organisation but still is working with vulnerable people. I will have to also get a DBS carried out with this firm after the training but my concerns are that their policy is: ‘DBS will be carried out and must be clear’.

So my real concern is that a lot of these organisations expect that it must come back clear. There is nothing on the policy saying ‘we will not discriminate or necessarily bar you if you have something that shows up and does not impact on the role you are doing’. It appears these organisations are discriminating against ex-offenders

I also experienced discrimination with 2 well known recruitment agencies. About 6 weeks ago I had them hounding me to register with them due to my skills etc and seeing my CV on line, knowing I was looking for work. I ended up making efforts to see them in person to register and I had to fill out an application form at their offices. Their form asked whether you have any spent or unspent convictions and including cautions or any pending prosecutions. I was honest with them and filled out the form. I have to this day never heard from them again!

I contacted them recently to ask them to remove my details. They totally ignored me and I chased it up and got one minimal response written in an unprofessional way. I now have to take time out to complain to their managers, as I need clarification they have indeed removed my details and the sensitive information I disclosed.

Finally, in relation to a role that I have been successful in, I have not yet been told when I can start as they are currently obtaining references and I am sure they will also do a DBS due to the role of working with young people.

For this role, I was never questioned on application as to whether I have any spent or unspent convictions or cautions and at interview I was not questioned. I do have a concern when they get to know about my caution they may change their mind about allowing me to have the job. As explained previously, it has no direct relevance to deter me from working with vulnerable people or young people.

So I am left with a very sour view of all these hurdles I have had to face due to the prejudice in some cases and cases where ex-offenders are discouraged from taking up employment.

As you can clearly see, more work needs to be done to ensure all organisations, including care work, and working to assist vulnerable people will not necessarily bar people from working on account of their enhanced DBS not being clean.

It is as if I have been sentenced to life as it is constant and never ending. It was spent in 2012 and is a caution that is constantly hanging over me.

By Sam (name changed to protect identity)

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