I’m currently in the recruitment process, and would like to know the position with dealing with applications from individuals with criminal records. Do I need to treat them differently?

Employers are usually interested in a potential employee’s previous history including, perhaps, any criminal convictions. You should be aware, though, that certain criminal offences could be erased from a person’s record after set periods of time. Legislation sets these time periods after which a criminal is deemed to have been rehabilitated and the offence ‘spent’. A spent conviction is one which should play no part in the recruitment and selection process.

The time periods of rehabilitation increase with the severity of the offence. Briefly, cautions, reprimands and warnings are deemed to be spent immediately, imprisonment for up to 6 months is spent after 7 years; imprisonment for 6 – 30 months is spent after 10; and imprisonment for more than 30 months is never spent. Rehabilitation periods are shorter when the offence was committed when an individual was younger than 18.

Employers should generally not ask for information on spent convictions, whether on application forms or during an interview. There is an exception, however, where the employment concerned is one for which offences are never considered as spent e.g. in legal, medical or accountancy professions, or where care of children or vulnerable adults is concerned. Therefore the type of job for which you are recruiting will determine whether you can ask about spent convictions or not.

Many employers make job offers subject to the provision of satisfactory criminal records checks where these are legally required for certain jobs in the provision of care. Disclosure of spent and unspent convictions will be provided and this can be accessed via the Criminal Records Bureau (which is become the Disclosure and Barring Service in December 2012), Disclosure Scotland or Access Northern Ireland. In Scotland, employers must check PVG Scheme membership for job in the care industry.

A job offer can be withdrawn if the records check presents evidence which would make the individual unsuitable to carry out the job.

For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.