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employment of ex-offenders policy
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Employment of ex-offenders policy

Employment of ex-offenders policy

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides that, after a stipulated period of time, individuals who have been convicted of criminal offences and who have served their sentences are, with some exceptions, not obliged to disclose those convictions to a prospective employer. The conviction becomes “spent”. One of the purposes of the legislation is to assist ex-offenders in obtaining employment where they may otherwise have difficulties in doing so. Use our policy on the employment of ex-offenders to set out your position here.

Spent convictions

The length of time which must elapse before a conviction or caution becomes spent depends on the nature of the sentence imposed and on the age of the offender at the time of conviction. Under the legislation, once the conviction or caution has become spent, the individual should be treated as though they had not been convicted of the particular offence to which the conviction relates. Where a conviction or caution is spent, if a job applicant is therefore asked about their past criminal convictions or cautions, they can answer that question on the basis that it does not refer to the spent conviction or caution, i.e. they don’t need to disclose it. The fact that a job applicant has a spent conviction or caution is not a proper ground for you to refuse to employ them. 

Unspent convictions

Where a past criminal conviction or caution is not spent, subject to compliance with data protection rules, you are entitled to ask questions about such convictions or cautions and you can then take those into account in deciding whether or not to employ the individual. Unspent convictions or cautions may form good grounds for refusing the applicant the job, particularly if the nature of the offence is relevant to the job for which they have applied.


The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (in Scotland, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2013) provides that individuals who are applying for certain occupations or professions are obliged on request to disclose all convictions or cautions, whether spent or unspent (unless they are either “protected convictions” or “protected cautions”), and they may be refused employment because of any such conviction or caution, or because of a failure to disclose it. Application forms for posts which are excepted from the legislation should make this clear.

Access to information about past convictions

The Police Act 1997 provides for the issue of certificates which may be provided to the employer in order to satisfy it of the accuracy of the applicant’s disclosure of past criminal convictions and cautions. In England and Wales, these are Criminal Record Certificates (also known as Standard Disclosure) which are available in cases where the job role falls within one of the exceptions to the legislation, and Enhanced Criminal Record Certificates (also known as Enhanced Disclosure) which may be obtained in relation to applications for certain sensitive employments, such as working with children and vulnerable adults. In addition, job applicants can themselves apply for a Criminal Conviction Certificate (also known as Basic Disclosure) in relation to any job role.

Policy statement

Our Employment of Ex-Offenders Policy sets out your position on employing people who have criminal convictions, in compliance with the law and data protection rules. It provides that having a conviction won’t necessarily bar them from working for you but it will depend on the nature of the job role and the circumstances of the criminal offence. We’ve set out the position on spent convictions, unspent convictions and job roles exempt from the legislation, as well as data protection requirements.
















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