Skip to main content

Tag: Disclosing to employers

Josh – I had the information but getting reassurance from Unlock around disclosure was just what I needed

Emery – The successful disclosure of my criminal record led to a job in a hospital

Salah – Disclosure advice from Unlock helped me secure an IT apprenticeship

Top 10 things to know about criminal records

Danny – Speaking to Unlock changed my approach to disclosure

‘Do I need to disclose my criminal record?’ tool

If the tool isn’t displayed above, please click here.

powered by Typeform

Explaining gaps in your CV as a result of a criminal record

Aim of this page

The aim of this page is to look at ways of dealing with gaps in your employment history that have come about as a result of your criminal record. This may be by understanding what to put in your CV or how you explain at interview.

This page forms part of our information on disclosing to employers.

Why is this important?

Many people with a criminal record have gaps in their CV that came about because of their criminal record. It’s important to know the best ways of addressing the issue and landing yourself a job offer.

Introduction

Having a gap in your CV may seem like a real stumbling block when you’re seeking a new job. However, if approached in the right way, these gaps needn’t be a hindrance and may present you with the opportunity to look at your existing CV and give it a complete overhaul.

Dealing with career gaps in a written application

When preparing your CV or completing an application form, it may be tempting to ignore breaks in your career, in the hope that potential employers won’t notice them. However, recruiters view applications carefully and may disregard your application straight away if your CV is full of unexplained gaps.

If the gap is a result of being in prison or losing your job as a result of a conviction, then the good news is you don’t need to state this explicitly in your application. This is your chance to sell yourself – highlight the positives and leave out the negatives.

How should I set out my CV?

When considering your CV, try to avoid using the standard chronological listings of job dates and previous employers. This format will draw more attention to gaps in your work history or limited work experience. Instead, use a functional CV format which highlights your abilities and skills for the job you’re applying for. Remember not just to focus on what you’ve done in the past but what you’re looking to do in the future. An example of a functional CV is set out below.

Fuctional CV example

Although a functional CV is less common, it’s generally used by applicants who are looking for a career change. Therefore, don’t view it as something that will stand out in a negative way. The National Careers Service website has examples of different CV styles.

How can I explain short gaps?

If the gap in your employment history is short and sandwiched between longer periods of employment, you can often deflect attention by giving the dates of employment in years rather than months. For example 2002-2006, rather than January 2002 – October 2006.

How can I explain bigger gaps?

If there is a bigger gap in your career, maybe as a result of a prison sentence, then don’t try to conceal the gap but instead use it to show how you spent your time constructively and developed new qualities to bring to the workplace. This may not mean saying that you’ve been in prison, but it does mean explaining what you did at the time. Things that you might have done which can boost your CV include training courses you completed, new skills you’ve learnt, volunteering you’ve done or projects of your own that you’ve carried out. These will all demonstrate how you have occupied your time effectively.

You could explain gaps by stating that you were ‘unavailable for work’. It’s important to bear in mind however that an employer will probably ask you to explain what you mean by this if you’re invited to an interview. If you’re going to explain it in this way, you should plan in advance how you would answer this type of question.

If the gap comes from being in prison, but you worked whilst you were there, then include this work on your CV but put down the corporate entity’s name you worked for instead of the prison. For example, put that you worked for DHL instead of at HMP Maidstone. If you acquired new qualifications in prison, then put these on your CV but again, list the awarding body or college rather than the prison.

If you really want to address the gaps in your written application, then do so in a covering letter rather than in your CV. Read our guidance on when and how to disclose for more details.

Explaining career gaps during an interview

If you know that you’re going to discuss the gaps in your CV during an interview, think carefully about the questions an interviewer might ask.

Remember, good interviewers will have been trained to look for gaps in CV’s. They will probably go through your CV or application form and will want to know about the gaps. Resist the temptation to lie as it’s fairly easy for organisations to verify whether the information you’ve given is true.

When you’re providing details of the gaps in your CV, avoid lengthy explanations that will cast you in a bad light. If you’ve had a long gap in your employment history then it’s going to be particularly important that you can explain really well why you’re the best candidate for the job. Fairly or unfairly, employers will worry about hiring anybody coming back to the workplace after a long time off. Technology and processes change quickly and your challenge will be to show that you have been keeping up to date with new developments, this might have been by reading trade journals, doing courses etc.

Also bear in mind that this might be the first time they find out about your criminal record. Prepare your answers so that you can talk about your criminal record in the most positive way possible. We have tips on disclosing your criminal record in person

Dealing with a career gap if your conviction is spent

If your conviction is now spent, then having to explain a gap in your employment history might result in you inadvertently disclosing your spent conviction.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act allows you to withhold information which relates to ‘circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction’. You could therefore decide to hold back any information which might lead to your having to disclose your spent conviction but you can’t lie to hide the gaps in your career. You’ll need to think carefully about what you say as many employers will seek to clarify what you tell them. Also, if you think that an employer may find out about the conviction in some other way, you may choose to tell them, even though legally you don’t need to. For further information see here.

Personal experiences

The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

‘Life’s about reinventing yourself not finding yourself’  – Read Jeff’s story about his search for a new job at the age of 51

Discuss with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on disclosing to employers
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag looking for (and keeping) employment
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions –If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with other on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in August 2016. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to advice@unlock.org.uk

Types of criminal record checks

Download a short guide to this: Types of criminal record checks [PDF]


Aim of this information

This page sets out the types of criminal record checks that can be conducted by employers, the type of information that can be disclosed on each check and what convictions can be disclosed.

This information forms part of our disclosing to employers section.

Why is this important?

When you are applying for a job it’s important to know as much information as possible about the type of criminal record check that an employer may do. You can then make an informed decision as to whether you need to disclose your conviction or not.

By understanding the types of checks that are available to employers and what information is disclosed, you are less likely to either under or over disclose your criminal record. 

The main types of criminal record checks for employers

There are four types of criminal record check for employment purposes, basic, standard, enhanced and enhanced with barred list.

 

What criminal record checks disclose

Types of checks 2

For each conviction/caution disclosed, the certificate will state the court/police area, date of conviction/caution, offence and sentence/disposal. It will only disclose factual information, it does not give a description or account of the circumstances surrounding the conviction.

Information for all checks are taken from the Police National Computer (PNC). The only exceptions to this applies to some information on enhanced checks. “Police Intelligence”, comes from local police records and “barring list” information, comes from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

How many checks are carried out each year?

Overall, approximately 5.8 million criminal record checks are carried out each year (see further explanation below). Of these, roughly:

  • 28% are basic checks
  • 5% are standard checks
  • 67% are enhanced checks

What proportion of checks disclose criminal records?

The proportion of checks which disclose some type of information relating to cautions/convictions is roughly:

  • 1.67% of basic checks disclose unspent convictions
  • 5.62% of standard and enhanced checks disclose convictions/cautions

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our disclosing to employers and understanding your criminal record sections
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information.  You can:

Download a short guide to this: Types of criminal record checks [PDF]

A simple guide to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA)

Aim of this information

On the 28 October 2023, changes were made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This information reflects the situation after these changes.

Why is this important?

Once your conviction is spent, you don’t need to disclose t it when applying for jobs requiring a basic DBS check and insurance. This means you can generally answer “no” to the question about convictions. Being aware of how the law works will ensure you are able to work out if your convictions are spent or not.

What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 gives people with spent convictions and cautions the right not to disclose them when applying for most jobs, and buying insurance.

What are the benefits of it?

The main benefits of the Act relate to applying for work and insurance. Generally, once spent, you can legally ‘lie’ about your past convictions by answering ‘no’ to a question about convictions.

Applying for work

Once your convictions are spent, the Act gives you the right not to disclose them when applying for jobs, unless the role is exempt from the Act. Most employers with jobs covered by the Act will only ask for ‘unspent’ convictions. If they ask about all convictions, you should check what level of disclosure they’re entitled to, and if it’s only a basic DBS disclosure, then this may be an ineligible check and you can legally withhold any spent convictions.

Applying for insurance

Once your convictions are spent, the Act gives you the right not to disclose them when applying for insurance. For example, spent motoring convictions do not need to be disclosed when applying for car insurance. This applies no matter what question an insurance company asks. Most will only ask for unspent convictions, although some might ask for ‘any convictions in the last 5 years’. If it’s spent, you do not need to disclose it under any circumstances when applying for insurance.

What doesn’t it cover?

  1. It only applies in England and Wales. If you’re applying for work in another country you’ll need to check the disclosure laws that apply in that country.
  2. You may have to disclose spent convictions when applying for jobs that are exempt from the Act. These will normally involve a standard or enhanced DBS criminal record check.

Rehabilitation periods for specific sentences

Prison sentences and community orders

 

A community order which has no specified end date will have a default rehabilitation period of 2 years. The rehabilitation period won’t be halved if you were convicted when you were under the age of 18.

Prison sentences of over 4 years

A prison sentence of over 4 years can be spent after 7 years providing the offence you were convicted of is not listed in Schedule 18 of the Sentencing Act 2020 or is a Public Protection Sentence.

The types of offence which would be excluded from rehabilitation are:

Other community sentences

What about further convictions?

If you already have an unspent conviction and you get a further conviction before the earlier one becomes spent, then neither conviction will become spent until the longest of them does. If the further conviction results in a prison sentence of more than 4 years, then potentially neither the second nor the first conviction will ever become spent.

How do I work out if my convictions are spent?

If you only have one conviction, it should be relatively straight-forward to establish whether your conviction is spent by using the tables in this guide. If you have got a number of convictions, it might be more difficult. You can use our online disclosure calculator which will help you to work it out.

Can I get a copy of my unspent convictions?

Yes. You can obtain a list of your unspent convictions by applying for a basic DBS disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service. The current cost is £18. An employer may also carry out a basic DBS disclosure as part of their recruitment process (but they’d need your permission to do this).

When can spent convictions be taken into account?

There are many jobs or roles where you might need to disclose your spent convictions particularly when applying for certain jobs or volunteer work. Examples include:

  • Working with children and other vulnerable groups (jobs such as teachers, social workers, doctors, dentists, chemists and nurses).
  • Working in professions associated with the justice system (such as solicitors, police, court clerks, probation officers, prison officers and traffic wardens).

These jobs will usually involve a standard or enhanced DBS criminal record check. It is important to realise that these types of checks will show both spent and unspent convictions and cautions. The only exception to this is where your caution or conviction is eligible to be filtered.

Only an employer can apply for a standard or enhanced DBS disclosure, you are not able to apply for your own. However, it’s really important that you find out exactly what your criminal record is so that you know what you do and don’t have to disclose. You can apply for a Subject Access Request (SAR), from your local police force. This is a copy of your criminal record and is free of charge. It provides information that is held on the Police National Computer (PNC), about you. This is for your information only and shouldn’t be given to an employer. If an employer forces you to give them a copy of your SAR, this is now a criminal offence and employers can be prosecuted for this. There are other times when spent convictions might be taken into account, including:

  1. When applying to stay in the UK (i.e. immigration and nationality decisions).
  2. When travelling abroad to another country.

What does it mean if I have…?

  • If asked by an employer, you have to disclose them, and they can legally refuse you or discriminate against you.
  • They will be disclosed on all types of criminal record disclosure (basic, standard and enhanced).
  • If asked, you will have to disclose them when applying for financial products and services, such as insurance, a mortgage or renting a house.
  • You could be prosecuted if you fail to disclose them when asked.

  • For most jobs, you do not need to disclose them to an employer, even if they ask about convictions.
  • They will not be disclosed on a basic DBS criminal record check.
  • For some jobs (those exempt from the ROA), you may need to disclose them if asked – these jobs will usually involve a standard or enhanced DBS criminal record check. If your conviction is filtered, then you do not have to disclose, however, if it is not filtered an employer can legally refuse you or discriminate against you.
  • You do not need to disclose them to insurers when purchasing insurance.
  • You might need to disclose them when travelling or working outside of England and Wales.
  • They will remain on your record for life – they will not be deleted

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is avaliable on our:
  2. Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on this issue
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information.  You can:

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our Community

 

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in October 2023. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to advice@unlock.org.uk.

What will be disclosed on a standard or enhanced check?


Aim of this information

Some jobs and courses are ‘exempt’ (i.e. not covered) by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which means that instead of being able to do a basic criminal record check, organisations are able to carry out a standard or enhanced check, depending on the role.

This information sets out what roles require a standard or enhanced check, what’s included on the certificates and how you apply for them.

This information forms part of our disclosing to employers section.

Why is this important?

It’s important to know the types of roles which require a standard or enhanced check, as this should assist you in establishing which type of check a job you are applying for, is eligible for.

If you know what will be included on a standard or enhanced check, you can ensure that you only disclose what you are legally obliged to disclose and that you don’t over disclose.

Introduction

If a role is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, then an employer will be eligible to apply for a standard or enhanced check. These are provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) using information from the Police National Computer (PNC). More information can be found on this in our Disclosure and Barring Service section.

Types of roles that commonly require standard and enhanced checks

The types of positions that may be eligible for standard or enhanced checks are contained in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. You can also visit our information on eligibility for standard and enhanced checks.

Some examples of the types of roles eligible for standard and enhanced checks are:-

Standard checks

  • Security industry licence
  • Solicitor or Barrister
  • Accountant
  • Veterinary surgeon
  • FCA ‘approved person’ role
  • Football stewards
  • Traffic warden
  • Member of the Master Locksmiths Association

Enhanced checks

  • Working with children and vulnerable adults
  • Teacher
  • Social worker
  • NHS professional
  • Carer
  • Taxi driving licences

What standard and enhanced checks disclose

Standard and enhanced checks will disclose all convictions and cautions held on the PNC and previously ‘stepped down’ cautions/convictions, unless they are now filtered. The certificates will not distinguish between convictions which are spent and those which are unspent.

Enhanced checks may also disclose police intelligence (if the police deem it relevant).

If an enhanced plus barring check is being carried out it will also include a check of the Children’s and/or Adults Barring List (if specified).

What standard and enhanced checks do not disclose

Cautions and convictions that are filtered by the DBS will not be disclosed on standard or enhanced checks.

How standard and enhanced checks are applied for

An employer can only apply for a standard or enhanced check where the role applied for is eligible. If you believe that a role you are applying for is not eligible for this level of check, you can challenge it through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Employers need your consent before they can apply for a standard or enhanced check. The certificate will usually be sent to you, unless you have signed a waiver, requesting it be sent to your employer.

It is not possible to apply for a standard or enhanced check on yourself.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information can be found in our disclosing to employers and understanding your criminal record sections
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline

 Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord

 

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