Does a criminal record stop you getting a job?

Does a criminal record stop you getting a job?

It’s a common question, because around 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record.

However, a criminal record doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get a job. It all depends on the nature and severity of the offence you committed, and its relevance to the role you’re applying for.

Will my offences show up on a criminal record check?

Criminal convictions become ‘spent’ after a certain amount of time. This means that, under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the conviction can effectively be ignored (except in particular circumstances – more on this below).

The length of time it takes for the conviction to become spent – known as the ‘rehabilitation period’ – depends on how severe the penalty was. Until this rehabilitation period is complete, the conviction is ‘unspent’.

Some jobs may require you to undergo a DBS check. If you have unspent convictions, they will show up on any level of disclosure.

If you have spent convictions, they won’t appear on a basic disclosure, but will show up on a standard or enhanced DBS check – unless they’ve been protected or filtered in line with current guidance.

‘Filtering’ is the term the DBS uses to describe the process which identifies and removes protected convictions and cautions so they’re no longer disclosed on a DBS certificate.

Standard or enhanced DBS checks are required for jobs that involve working with children or vulnerable adults, or in positions of responsibility like law and accountancy.

Do I have to disclose my criminal record when I apply for jobs?

If you have any unspent convictions, you are legally required to disclose them.

What about spent convictions?

If you have a spent conviction, you must first consider whether it will be filtered in line with current DBS guidance.

Standard and enhanced DBS certificates will include details of convictions and cautions (which include youth cautions, reprimands and warnings) recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC).

PNC information relating to protected cautions and convictions will be filtered, and won’t appear on the certificate.

Employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of spent convictions. However, some jobs are exempt from this rule, including:

  • Jobs that involve working with children or vulnerable adults
  • Senior roles in banking or finance
  • Law enforcement roles, including the police and judiciary
  • The military, navy and air force
  • Work involving national security
  • Certain roles in healthcare, pharmacy and the law
  • Certain roles in the prison service
  • Private security work

If you undergo a standard or enhanced DBS check, you’ll be required to disclose any conviction, caution, final warning or reprimand that isn’t protected. Only the information your employer is legally entitled to know will appear on your DBS certificate.

Will my convictions be held against me?

That depends on the nature and severity of your convictions, and whether they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for.

So when does a criminal record stop you getting a job?

Serious crimes involving violence or sexual abuse are likely to prevent you from working with children or vulnerable adults, whilst crimes involving fraud or theft may prevent you from getting a job involving finance or cash handling.

Minor crimes, like getting into a fight as a teenager, may be overlooked by the majority of employers.

Honesty is always the best policy. Talk about your conviction in a way that will reassure a potential employer that you’ve moved on, and give examples of when you’ve showed responsibility and trustworthiness.

Remember, employers are not allowed to discriminate against applicants because of spent convictions, unless a DBS check shows they are unsuitable for the role.

Does a criminal record stop you getting a job?

So, does a criminal record stop you from getting a job? The answer is – not necessarily.

Most employers recognise that people make mistakes, and if your conviction isn’t relevant to the role you’re applying for, they may overlook it.

If you need a helping hand, Unlock is the country’s most comprehensive source of online self-help information on a wide range of issues that criminal convictions can affect. You’ll find some useful tips and information here.