Can You Refuse to Employ Someone with a Criminal Record?

March 15, 2016
Employ Someone with a Criminal Record

Today we’ll be looking at a question that many people have, but are reluctant to ask out loud: Can you refuse to employ someone with a criminal record?

What most people mean when they ask this, is can they refuse to employ somebody on the grounds of having a criminal history – or, to state it differently and more specifically, a “spent” criminal conviction.

What is a “Spent” Criminal Conviction?

A “spent” criminal conviction is where the person in question has committed a crime, been convicted and sentenced, and has fulfilled all legal requirements in terms of “paying for” their crime.

For example, for a person who has been sent to prison in the past, but who has now served their full sentence, and the appropriate amount of time has since passed since (this can vary), the person would be considered a person with a “spent” conviction – and in the eyes of the law, this person would also be classed as “rehabilitated”.

Employing “Rehabilitated” Offenders

OK, so now let’s look at what we should and should not be doing in terms of employing somebody with a “spent” criminal record.

According to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, a conviction that has become “spent” should be treated as though it never happened. In other words, the person in question has made full amends for his or her wrongdoing, and may now proceed with a clean sheet.

So, in most situations, employers should treat “spent” criminal convictions as though they do not exist – in fact, as a general rule, employers are not meant to even ask candidates to declare “spent” criminal convictions, never mind refuse them employment on these grounds.

Of course, as with anything, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if a person is seeking employment as a teacher, a police officer, or a nurse, these might all require them to declare any “spent” convictions – and these “spent” convictions may also play a part in whether or not the person gets the job.

There is a great article on XpertHR’s website that gives a quick reference guide for jobs where it is and isn’t lawful to ask for details of spent convictions.

More About the Rehabilitation and Offenders Act 1974

The Rehabilitation and Offenders Act 1974 was updated most recently in 2014. For more information and advice on understanding this act, and how it might apply to you or your business, you can visit the dedicated page on the government’s website here for guidance and explanations on the act.

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