It is well known that having a criminal conviction can be a huge barrier to attaining employment, although recent changes in the law seek to ease this burden on ex-offenders.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 provides that certain criminal convictions become “spent” following a specified rehabilitation period during which the individual must not re-offend. Once spent, the individual will be treated as though they have never committed the offence and therefore will not be obliged to inform a respective employer about the conviction, even if specifically asked.
The rehabilitation periods under the Act have recently been reduced meaning that particularly for individuals convicted of minor offences, these will become spent quicker and they will, for most jobs, not be under a requirement to disclose them for as long a period, thereby weakening a barrier to them regaining employment.
Whilst a concern for employers is that they may inadvertently recruit someone with a criminal conviction, the alternative argument raised is that this is a positive step towards the long term rehabilitation of offenders by easing one of the barriers to them regaining meaningful employment, which has statistically been shown to reduce the risk of re-offending.
It remains unlawful for employers to refuse an individual employment on the basis of a spent conviction, although where a role requires a clear criminal records check, such as for lawyers or those working with children, if a spent conviction shows up an employer is entitled to withdraw a job offer.
If you would like advice on employment issues please contact us.