Navigating the Job Market With A Conviction General
It can be hard for anyone to get a job. In the best of circumstances, it’s a long, stressful, thankless process which more often than not leads to failure. For people with a criminal record, however, it can be even more difficult. It can feel as though every door is closed to you. But just because you’ve made a mistake at some point doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a job or to feel useful. Everyone does. It takes effort (and a little bit of knowledge) to navigate the Job Market with a criminal conviction, but it is very possible to find yourself a position you can enjoy.
In order to help you, we’ve put together this document to give you as much information as possible about England and Wales’ current criminal rehabilitation laws and process. With that knowledge, you’ll find navigating the job market a lot easier.
Understanding Your Conviction
A Criminal Conviction is a legal declaration that you have behaved contrary to the laws of the United Kingdom or its component countries. Because of that behaviour, the court has seen fit that you undergo a period of rehabilitation — this could have been a fine, a warning, or a custodial sentence.
In many countries around the world, criminal convictions are kept on file for life and must be disclosed in many different circumstances. In the UK, however, we have a fairly progressive system.
In the UK’s Justice System, certain offences can be considered irrelevant after a period of time, as well as a system where criminal background checks aren’t mandatory. This is thanks to a piece of legislation called the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 which introduced 2 categories of criminal convictions: Spent Convictions and Unspent Convictions.
Note on Scottish Law
If you attended court in Scotland, you may have been given a Not Proven verdict. This is a unique verdict available to Scottish Courts only. This verdict states that, while the jury has reason enough to believe you guilty, the crown has failed to provide enough evidence to prove their case. For the purposes of the legal system, if you’ve received a Not Proven verdict, this is the same as a Not Guilty verdict. As such, you are not considered to have a criminal record.
Unspent Convictions are convictions which are considered active or current — hence ‘unspent.’ As such, they must be disclosed during the interview process if asked. Failure to disclose these convictions could mean the loss of opportunity or even a further criminal case of fraud.
However, while you must disclose your conviction status if asked, there are many positions where the interviewer cannot ask you if you have a criminal conviction as a point of law. We will go over these situations shortly.
The other form of criminal convictions are Spent Convictions. These are, generally speaking, convictions which the government considers to be irrelevant going forward — whether because so much time has passed or because the government considers it a one-off event that is unlikely to be repeated. For example, a crime which warrants a police caution is immediately considered spent as soon as you leave the police station.
While spent, these convictions remain on your criminal background for a period of 11 or 5.5 years (if you were convicted before your 18th birthday). In some circumstances, once that period of time has passed, the conviction is filtered out entirely — meaning that it would no longer appear on a standard Disclosure and Barring Scheme (DBS) Certificate at all.
In order for a conviction to be filtered out, a list of requirements must be satisfied. These are:
- 11 (or 5.5) years have elapsed since the time of the conviction, and
- It is the person’s only offence, and
- It did not result in a custodial sentence
Some crimes, however, are considered permanent. The UK Government website has a full list of these — which can be found here.
The Disclosure and Barring Scheme
The Disclosure and Barring Scheme, or DBS, is a department of the UK Home Office which deals with background checks. The DBS has the ability to conduct checks through a number of databases throughout the UK, including the HOLMES 2 central policing computer network. This search can create one of four types of DBS checks:
- Basic Checks – Shows any unspent convictions only.
- Standard checks – Shows any spent and unspent convictions, final warnings, reprimands and cautions. This type of check can only be requested by organizations if the applicant is applying for a high responsibility position, such as security officer or accountant.
- Enhanced checks – For an enhanced check, the same information as a standard check will be checked, as well as any additional information that may be held by your local police service.
- Enhanced checks with barred lists – This final check is the same as an enhanced check, but also includes further checks to see if you’re barred from working with children and / or adults.
As you can see, there are many circumstances where a conviction will become irrelevant on its own. Furthermore, thanks to the way the legislation is written, not every employer has the right to perform a DBS check.
But if, for whatever reason, you are facing the possibility that you’ll have to disclose your conviction to your employer, you’ll improve your chances of securing a role by disclosing your conviction in the right way. Some points to consider include:
- You’ll need to reassure employers that you’re not a risk and that your crimes are in the past.
- If you were convicted as a young person, have changed and found responsibilities, it shows that you have too much ose by getting into trouble again and you should highlight this to the employer.
- If the record is not relevant to the job, politely say so. For example; a historic driving offence shouldn’t hinder your chances of working in your local paper shop.
- If you pleaded guilty to the crime, then you could say so. It shows that you took ownership of your mistake and have made amends.
With that said, it can still feel like an uphill battle to secure a position. And in many ways it is.
But while many employers can be hostile to applicants with criminal convictions, there are a number of great organisations which will happily hire ex-offenders. The Timpsons Group, for example, are famous for offering positions to those with criminal backgrounds, and Virgin Rail also run schemes for recruiting ex-offenders.
More and more companies are becoming open to hiring ex-offenders every year, and national attitudes towards hiring people with convictions are shifting. Just because you have a conviction — even if it’s not spent — doesn’t mean that you should be put off from applying for that job.
Now that you have the knowledge to navigate the job market, all you need to do is to put in the effort.
Building Better Opportunities is a charity based in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire. If you are in the Stoke-On-Trent and Staffordshire area and would like some more information or help getting back into work, contact us today.