Ex-Offenders and Employment

Employers are not allowed to turn someone down for a job if they have been convicted of an offence if the conviction or caution is deemed as ‘spent’, unless an exception applies.

People applying for jobs do not need to tell their potential employers about any convictions or cautions which are already spent.

For convictions with a sentence of 4 years or less, after a certain period of time has passed they will become spent. This is known as the ‘rehabilitation period’. The length of time that must pass depends on how severe the original penalty was.

The rehabilitation period (starting from the end of the sentence) for convictions with a sentence of 0-6 months is 2 years. For 6-30 months it is 4 years, and for 30 months to 4 years it is 7 years.

For custodial sentences of more than 4 years there is never a rehabilitation period and they will not become spent.

There is a rehabilitation period for non custodial sentences too. For a community order or fine there is a period of 1 year. If the result of a conviction was an absolute discharge there is no rehabilitation period necessary.

For people who were convicted when under the age of 18, the rehabilitation period is halved. However, there is an exception to this rule when the sentence is up to 6 months. In this case it is the sentence period plus 18 months.

For residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland, the rehabilitation periods are different.

For people receiving police cautions, these become spent immediately and will have no further effect when applying for jobs. Conditional cautions carry a rehabilitation period which allows them to become spent after 3 months.

There are exceptions to the above which will need to be considered. If a job requires a criminal record check which shows that someone is not suitable for a job because of a spent conviction or caution, the employer is allowed to withdraw the job offer. The employer should provide feedback to the person applying and let them know that an exception applies.

Criminal record checks are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which was previously known as the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). CRB and DBS checks mean the same thing and are sometimes used interchangeably.

It is against the law to be refused for a job because of a spent conviction or caution unless a criminal record check shows that the applicant is unsuitable.


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