Could Employers be Banned from Asking About your Criminal Record?

The new year has seen growing calls from both the legal profession and prison charities to ban employers from asking about criminal records. It’s a standard question on many application forms. But there’s a growing concern that many people are being put off applying for jobs which ask about their criminal record. Research from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice has several interesting findings.

New Research into Criminal Record and Job Prospects

The research looked at one main point – does asking about criminal offences reduce the risk to the business? Researchers don’t believe that it does. According to the research, the public perception is that any conviction is a risk that the behaviour will be repeated. However, the data shows that after around eight years, offenders are no more of a “risk” than anyone else. They also indicated that employers might be lulled into a false sense of security by a clean DBS check. Just because someone hasn’t been charged or convicted in the past doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future.

Ban the Box

This research is all part of the “Ban the Box” campaign. Ban the Box is an attempt to get employers to take the box about criminal convictions off their application forms. Instead, employers are encouraged to look at an applicant’s work record and personal qualities. DBS checks can only be used for positions which require them. Many large UK employers such as Virgin Trains, Boots and the Civil Service have already banned the question on their application forms. That doesn’t mean that employees won’t be asked about any criminal record at a later date. It just means removing the question at the application stage.

What Do I Have to Tell My Employer?

The “Ban the Box” initiative is voluntary. Employers are free to continue asking people about their criminal record if they want to. They are also legally allowed to have a policy of not employing ex-offenders. Legally though, they can only ask about unspent convictions. This is in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. If you have a crime in your very distant past it will never be erased from police records. Rehabilitation legislation means though that you have the right to leave your past behind you. If a conviction is spent, you don’t have to declare it.

The one exception to all of this is if you are asked to apply for a standard or enhanced DBS check. Employers can only ask for a DBS check if the job requires it. They are not allowed to ask everyone to have a check done, and can’t pick and choose who to check. More detailed DBS checks will show all of the information on your police record. This includes information which would be considered forgotten in other circumstances. Having a criminal record doesn’t automatically mean you will be rejected. Speak to your employer, and depending on the circumstances they might still agree that you’re the best person for the job.

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