Can I be refused a job because of my criminal record? (Legal Q&A)

by ContactLaw on January 31, 2012

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Employers in England and Wales can use the Disclosure service of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to check whether job applicants have a criminal record. If you are applying for a job, as an applicant you will be sent a copy of the same disclosure that a potential employer sees.

The CRB has no role whatsoever in deciding whether your employer should offer you the job in the light of information included in its disclosure. So if you have a criminal record, the decision on whether or not to employ you rests entirely with the employer.

If you are asked to volunteer information on whether or not you have a criminal conviction, you are not obliged to disclose this information as long as the conviction is spent. If the conviction is not spent, you are obliged to disclose that you have a criminal record. If you are unsure of the status of your conviction, you can contact a criminal law solicitor for legal advice.

You will not necessarily be refused a job because you have a criminal record. If your employer finds out about it from the CRB, the Code of Practice of the CRB prevents them from discriminating against you because of this. Your right to be treated fairly is protected by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). The ROA was introduced to ensure that job applicants are not discriminated against because of their criminal convictions in the past, which may not be relevant at all to the jobs they are applying for.

There are certain jobs that are exempt from ROA obligations of non-discrimination. If you have convictions for crimes of a sexual or violent nature, for example, you will be seen as an unsuitable candidate for work with children or vulnerable adults. Other exemptions to the ROA include work with elderly or disabled people, alcoholics or drug addicts, the chronically sick and work in the criminal justice system. Your criminal record may result in you being refused a job in these areas, but it should be made clear to you in the job advertisement that the ROA exemption applies.

If you have seen your CRB disclosure and believe it contains incorrect information, you can appeal to have the document changed. You have to do this by writing to the Chief Constable of the relevant police force, rather than to the CRB itself and it is the Chief Constable who decides whether any amendments can be made to your criminal record. For further legal advice on disclosing your criminal record and whether you can be refused a job, you can contact an employment solicitor. In addition, if you believe you have been discriminated against and not been given a job because of your criminal record, you can contact an employment solicitor.

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