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FAQs: Disclosing criminal records to employers

FAQs: Disclosing criminal records to employers

There are strict laws relating to disclosure and discrimination in place, so if you have questions, the following might just help.

Do I have to disclose my conviction?

You don’t have to disclose your criminal record unless you are asked to do so. However, if you are asked and you fail to disclose any convictions, you might be committing a further criminal offence. If you’re out on licence, you could even be recalled to prison for failing to disclose relevant details relating to your conviction.

When is the best time to disclose my criminal record?

You may feel that you want to be really upfront about any convictions right from the off. It might give you peace of mind to know that your employer is aware of your situation and has offered you a job in the full knowledge of your past offence. However, be aware that doing so could discount you from the process.

If you’re applying for a role that requires a DBS check, anything that has not been disclosed and has a direct bearing on the role (for example a conviction relating to a child if you’re applying to work in a school) could result in you being rejected by the employer. If you’re worried that a DBS check might disqualify you, it’s usually worth raising the issue in advance, even if you haven’t been asked directly e. Any attempt to hide a conviction could reflect badly on you as an applicant even if you have paid for your crime. You could even have a job offer rescinded if you fail to disclose a relevant conviction.

How much detail should I give?

If an unspent conviction is disclosed or discovered, your prospective employer may want to know the details. It’s not illegal for them to ask, and it might strengthen your application if you’re given the chance to explain the circumstances. You don’t have to give details, but if you don’t you might appear evasive or dishonest.

I’ve been convicted since I got the job. Do I have to tell my current employer?

This will depend on the type of conviction and the terms and conditions of your contract. For example, a driving conviction might have no bearing if you work from home, but it could affect your current role if you are a delivery driver. If you worked for a financial company and were convicted of fraud, this could also affect your existing position. If your contract stipulates that you must make the company aware of any changes relating to your criminal convictions, you will need to disclose the offence.

What might the consequences be?

It might be that your employer simply makes a note of your disclosure and takes no further action. Depending on the seriousness of the conviction, you could be dismissed. If this is the case and you feel you have been treated unfairly, you could seek legal advice or talk to your union rep. The company will need to be able to justify its decision and explain why it believe it is fair. If your conviction has no bearing on your role, it will be difficult for them to do so.

Can my employer ask for a basic disclosure when I’m already in the role?

This will depend on whether there was a stipulation that your job would be subject to checks. If this is the case, you will have to give your consent and it’s possible that an unspent conviction will show up. This could lead to a dismissal in some cases, particularly if you were asked to disclose earlier in the process and failed to do so.

If you have been employed by the company for more than two years and weren’t asked about your criminal record when you accepted the job, you could refuse to consent, and you would potentially have a strong claim for unfair dismissal if this cost you your job, although you would most likely need to be part of a union that would agree to fund an employment tribunal claim. You could ask your employer to explain in writing why the checks are needed and what the company intends to do with the information. You may be able to use this as evidence for unfair dismissal should you end up going down that route.

Should I seek legal advice?

It’s always a good idea to check your criminal record before you apply for jobs or a university place, or even buy an insurance policy if you’re in any doubt about your criminal history. You can do this by applying for a subject access request (SAR), and then speak to a union rep or employment lawyer before deciding whether to disclose or not.