Spent convictions are convictions which are deemed to have been rehabilitated under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). Generally it is unlawful to ask about any spent convictions that a person may have on their criminal record, unless the job falls in to one of the excepted employments. This is to achieve a balance between the need for rehabilitated criminals to have a private life and the recognition that certain situations and vulnerable groups need protection.
Employers can ask job applicants, either in application forms, during interviews or before an offer of employment, whether they have any criminal convictions. In most employments, if applicants have spent convictions then, under the ROA, the applicant can treat the question as only asking about unspent convictions and can deny any spent convictions.
If you are within one of the excepted employments then the rules are slightly different. These exceptions include: working with children and vulnerable adults, professional roles such as finance and legal, roles connected to law enforcement, certain regulated occupations and those who work within national security.
In excepted employments, employers can ask applicants to disclose any convictions they have, whether spent or unspent. In this scenario, if an applicant refuses to answer the question or answers untruthfully then you would be entitled to withhold an offer of employment. Furthermore, due to the nature of these roles and the need to gain an accurate knowledge of any criminal past for any job applicants, you can ask applicants to carry out a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check to gain a standard or enhanced disclosure or use the DBS Update Service to provide accurate up to date information on any potential employees. These checks will show any police records for the applicant and, in certain circumstances, information held on barred lists to allow you to make safer recruitment decisions.
If you have any queries about recruiting ex-offenders, you can call our award winning 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772, choosing option 1.