Skip to main content

Universities – please do your homework!

I got a conviction about 20 years ago when I was young and foolish. Since then my life has completely changed, I’ve had good jobs, got married and have a family. Generally, I can put this bad period in my life behind me but from time to time I’m reminded that you can never truly escape your past.

Earlier this year, I applied for a great job at a local university. It was a non-academic vacancy which basically involved marketing the university to sixth form students who were interested in pursuing a course there. This usually involved standing at the front of a lecture theatre and setting out both the academic and social side of life at the university.

I didn’t disclose my conviction – it was spent and from what I’d read and the advice I’d been given, the job would only be eligible for a basic criminal record check.

I was offered the job and started work. I’d just begun to find my feet when I was called into HR and told that my DBS certificate had come back and there were concerns about its content (my spent conviction). I was told that I was being suspended for failure to disclose and that a date would be set for a disciplinary hearing.

I sought out the help of my union rep who suggested that prior to the meeting I get hold of my probation records which I knew provided a lot of positive stuff about what I’d achieved during my dealings with my probation officer. I also contacted Unlock. They felt that this role was not eligible for an enhanced level check and therefore the university were basing a decision on information they were not entitled to have. They gave me some good advice about how to track down my probation records and they also wrote a letter on my behalf to the university. They were really keen to help me get a positive outcome.

The stress, anxiety and worry at this time was horrendous and my relationship with my wife had started to suffer. It’s at times like this that you have to step back and consider what’s important. If I managed to keep my job at the university, would I be happy? Would the university be looking to find some excuse to get rid of me? Did I want to work under that kind of pressure, fearful that at any time I’d get another call to the HR office? I started to think that losing my job wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen but losing my family would be.

In the end I arranged a meeting with HR and offered to resign. They accepted my resignation and assured me that if I went down this route there would be ‘no stain on my name’. Great – end of fantastic job.

This experience really demonstrated to me that employers really don’t understand that as an ‘ex-offender’ once you’ve served your punishment, you should be able to live a normal life. A judge decides and enforces your punishment not an employer and having an old conviction shouldn’t mean that you have to remain constantly wary of the repercussions simply because an employer is failing to comply with legislation.

When I applied for the university job I thought I’d done my homework and knew what I needed to disclose but, be it intentionally or unintentionally, there are organisations who are carrying out ineligible criminal record checks and all the time this happens, more and more people could find themselves in the same situation as I did.

Resigning was a pretty low point for me but funnily enough, my experience at the university and the dealings I’ve had with organisations such as Unlock gave me a greater confidence and a new found moral strength. I’ve now decided to set up my own business and also to undertake study in a new professional field.

The career choices I’ve made were not something I’d ever thought I’d be doing but so far I have no regrets.

I’ve had quite a few dealings with Unlock since I first contacted them and I know that they are working very hard to change employers mind set’s. I for one am extremely supportive of this vital work.

Ultimately, I may have lost my job but I have family, friends, support and a new beginning.


By Donald (name changed to protect identity)

We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now