Employers may wish to establish whether a prospective employee has any previous criminal convictions. The existence of a conviction does not automatically mean that the person is unsuitable for employment. Often a conviction will have no relevance to a particular job applicant's suitability for the job.
- An employer will be acting unlawfully if they refuse to employ a job applicant on the grounds that they have a spent conviction or that they have declined to disclose a spent conviction.
- For certain types of employment, however, it will be lawful for an employer to take convictions into account when deciding whom to employ and, at their discretion, to reject an applicant on the grounds that they have a spent conviction.
- Employers may want to conduct formal checks on whether a prospective job applicant has past convictions.
- Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act, information about a job applicant's criminal convictions is dealt with differently to other personal data.
The Ministry of Justice has announced that changes will be made to the current disclosure of criminal record information. Seeking to remove barriers to employment for ex-offenders, the laws will be changed so that:
- less serious sentences lasting over 4 years will not be disclosed once the rehabilitation period has passed (except in cases of most serious offences or for serious sexual, violent and terrorism offences)
- disclosure periods for sentences of four years or less will be reduced.
These changes will be in place for non-sensitive roles, ie those involving working with children or vulnerable adults will not be subject to these changes. More detail of how this law change will take effect will be released by the government in due course.
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has determined the process for criminal record disclosures is disproportionate to an applicant's right to privacy through disclosing convictions where an individual has more than one, and the indefinite disclosure of warnings provided to minors. The decision means the government will be required to review, and amend, the system in order to avoid any further breaches to human rights. More information can be found in our news story on this decision.