Frequently Asked Employment Questions

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Document updated/added on 25.09.2019

Topic: Recruitment process

When are we entitled to information on previous criminal convictions?

Firstly, you need to ask the individual to provide information on previous criminal convictions – they don't have to volunteer it if they're not asked. Secondly, for most occupations and professions, the individual doesn't need to declare any spent convictions. A conviction is considered to be spent when a period of time has passed since the individual completed their sentence. Once a conviction is spent an individual does not have to tell an employer any details about it. There are exceptions to this, relating to specific occupations and professions, e.g. medicine, law and finance and where the person is to work with children or vulnerable adults. The periods of rehabilitation are currently set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The period of rehabilitation varies according to the age when the offender was convicted and the type and length of sentence given (not the type of offence). Some convictions are currently never spent i.e. those resulting in imprisonment for more than four years (but be aware that new legislation is to be introduced, when Parliamentary time allows, which will reduce the current rehabilitation periods to help ex-offenders gain employment). Tip. Don't ask for information on convictions which are spent unless you're recruiting for a position that involves working with vulnerable groups or it's an excepted occupation or profession. In addition, only ask for information on unspent convictions if it's relevant to suitability for the particular role and you can therefore justify the information as necessary. To comply with data protection requirements, you'll also need to have a lawful basis for processing the information and you'll need to have identified an additional lawful ground or condition for processing it, e.g. the processing is necessary for the purposes of carrying out your obligations or exercising your rights under employment law.