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What do I Need to Tell My Employer about A Criminal Record?

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In most cases, people with a criminal record would prefer to keep this hidden and not tell anyone about it unless absolutely necessary. If you’ve ever thought that you’re the only person with a criminal record at your employer or in your circle of friends you’re probably wrong. Around 11 million adults in the UK have a criminal record. There’s a huge imbalance between the sexes too. Around a third of all UK men have been convicted of something by the time they reach the age of 53. For women, this figure is much lower at just 9%. Another interesting fact is that most offenders only have one crime recorded on their record – they make one mistake as a teenager or in their early 20s, and never stray to the wrong side of the law again. So, bearing all of this in mind, what exactly do you have to come clean about when you are applying for a new job?


Rehabilitation Periods

For most jobs, the key numbers you need to know are your rehabilitation periods. The problem with this is that there’s no set time period after which you don’t have to tell people about old crimes and cautions any more. The way of working out rehabilitation periods is fairly complex and can be anything between 6 months and 7 years. For the most serious offences, which resulted in a sentence of more than 4 years in prison, your conviction will never be spent. There is lots of information on the government website to help calculate rehabilitation periods. The key to this however is often remembering what exactly you were convicted of, and when.

In the vast majority of cases, you are not legally obliged to tell your employer anything about crimes which are now considered spent. In fact, under the rehabilitation law, the employer is committing an offence by asking you about spent offences. There’s also a growing school of thought that it’s unfair to ask applicants about more recent offences too. Many employers are taking questions about past criminal records off application forms as an attempt to make it easier for offenders to make a fresh start. If you’re still unsure about what you need to tell an employer, then take advice from an ex-offender charity. They will help you work out your rehabilitation period too.


Disclosure Checks

Many people who have a criminal record are put off applying for any jobs which need a basic, standard or enhanced disclosure. There’s a natural worry that any level of disclosure check will reveal all of their previous convictions, even if these are many years or decades in the past. This isn’t really the case though, as the police use a process called filtering when deciding what to disclose and what to leave off certificates.


Basic Disclosure

A basic disclosure shows only your unspent criminal record, so will never show anything which is past the rehabilitation period. Some employers might ask for this type of certificate as a way of proving that you are telling the truth about your current convictions. Most don’t bother though. People who are self-employed can also get their own basic disclosure should they wish to do so.


Standard and Enhanced Disclosures

Other, more detailed disclosures might show up more than just your current criminal record. However, these sorts of disclosures are only needed for very specific jobs. If you’re not applying for one of the jobs which falls into those categories, you won’t need a disclosure. Even if you do, it’s not automatic that everything on your criminal record will be revealed.

When the police look at the application for the DBS check, they will consider both the type of offences on your record and the type of job you are applying for. Only crimes which are directly relevant to the position will be listed on the disclosure form. Although the aim of the Disclosure and Barring Service is to protect the most vulnerable people in society, they also try to give people the benefit of the doubt wherever possible. That usually means disregarding a single conviction in the distant past. This is especially the case where the crimes were neither violent nor sexual in nature. On the other hand, a serious of convictions or cautions for fraud or dishonesty might be disclosed for a job in a bank, even though there is no link with violence.


Approaching Criminal Records At Interview

Most employers won’t ask about a criminal record at interview. They are usually more interested in your experience, and what skills and knowledge you can bring to the role. If they do ask about a criminal record and it’s a position which needs either a standard or enhanced disclosure, there’s no point in lying. If you say your record is clean and then a check reveals an offence, this calls your honesty into question. However, if you are open and honest about mistakes you have made in the past, but more importantly can show that you’ve turned over a new leaf and have not been in trouble with the law for years then your past is less important. There is lots of advice online about how to handle these awkward questions and still come out ahead. One good piece of advice however is not to volunteer the information before being asked. Often companies won’t ask at all.



If you have something of concern in your criminal record, then references are perhaps even more important. Many companies now prefer to give a standard reference just stating your job title and dates of employment. Ask if there is anyone in the company who would give you a more personal character reference. Not all employers will require this, but it might tip the balance between being offered the job and not. If you can’t get a personal reference don’t worry. Just let your track record stand for itself, and make sure to highlight all relevant experience and skills.