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Practical information & advice
You only have to disclose your record to an employer if they ask you. Many employers ask at some point and if your convictions are unspent, you legally need to disclose them. If they ask you and you don’t disclose, they could later revoke the job offer or you could be dismissed. You could even face a further conviction.
Taken from our top 10 things to know
Read our latest information and advice posts about disclosing criminal records to employers
Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to disclosing to employers.
There are a number of ways that you can find out what’s on your criminal record. Useful links include:
- Finding out about your criminal record – Simple guide [PDF]
- Finding out about your criminal record [Web page]
- Police records – Detailed guide [Web page]
- Basic disclosures – Detailed guide [Web page]
There are three levels of criminal record check – basic, standard and enhanced. Which one an employer does will depend on the job role. Useful links include:
This will depend on the type of check that is being done and whether your caution/conviction is spent (in the case of basic checks) or eligible for filtering (for DBS checks). Useful links include:
- What will be disclosed on a basic check? – Simple guide [PDF]
- What will be disclosed on a basic check? [Web page]
- Basic disclosures – Detailed guide [Web page]
- Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – Simple guide [PDF]
- A simple guide to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) [Web page]
- How long do I have to disclose my criminal record for?’ – A detailed guide to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (updated 2014) – Detailed guide [Web page]
- Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – A4 poster [PDF]
- Web tool to work out if convictions are ‘spent’ [Disclosure Calculator]
- What will be disclosed on a standard or enhanced check? – Simple guide [PDF]
- What will be disclosed on a standard or enhanced check? [Web page]
- What will be filtered by the DBS? – Simple guide [PDF]
- What will be filtered by the DBS? – Simple guide [Web page]
- What will be filtered by the DBS? – Detailed guide [Web page]
- Standard disclosures [Web page] and Enhanced disclosures [Web page]
- Challenging an ineligible check – Simple guide [PDF]
- Challenging an ineligible DBS check [Web page]
You only have to disclose your criminal record if you’re asked. Useful links include:
- Legally, need to disclose? – Simple guide [PDF]
- Legally, need to disclose? – Simple guide [Web page]
If you’re aware that the employer will be doing a formal criminal record check or they could find out about your criminal record in some other way, then it might be best to disclose even if you haven’t been asked to. Useful links include:
There’s no set time in which you have to disclose. You may be led by the employers own recruitment process – for example they may tell you that there will be a discussion at the end of the formal interview. If this isn’t the case, it’s always best to disclose at the earliest opportunity. Useful links include:
There are several ways to disclose and you should do whatever feels the most comfortable for you. Face to face seems to be the preferred choice of many employers and can often be very successful. Useful links include:
- When and how to disclose – Simple guide [PDF]
- When and how to disclose – Simple guide [Web page]
- Self-disclosure statements [Web page]
- Examples of self-disclosure statements [PDF]
- Videos on disclosing to employers [Web page]
You may need to redesign your CV to one which highlights your skills and abilities. If you worked whilst you were in prison, include the details of the job on your CV but don’t explicitly state it was a ‘prison job’. See the link below.
This will depend on the type of job you are applying for and the country you want to work in. See the link below.
- Working overseas [Web page]
You will need to check your contract of employment to see whether there is any clause included which requires you to disclose. See the link below.
Possibly but it will depend on the job you are applying for. See the link below.
- Childcare Disqualification Requirements – Primary school teachers, nursery staff and others – ‘Disqualified by Association’ [Web page]
Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on disclosing to employers. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions.
- If you’re applying for a job and are being asked to do a standard or enhanced check, the onus should be on the employer to establish what makes the role eligible (with reference back to the legislation if necessary). The way the legislation is structured means that all positions are eligible for a basic check. Only if the role meets certain requirements does it mean that it’s eligible for a standard or enhanced check.
- If you don’t think the employer is entitled to a standard or enhanced check, it’s normally only worth challenging this if all your convictions are spent. If any of your convictions are unspent, even if you are successful in your challenge, the employer will be entitled to require a basic check.
- If an employer insists on doing a standard or enhanced check, and you have tried (or don’t feel able) to challenge them, you should consent to the check and then raise a query with the DBS through their eligibility query process.
- If you’ve got police intelligence held about you, and you’re applying for an enhanced check, you shouldn’t disclose it unless you have reason to believe that it will be disclosed by the police (e.g. it’s particularly relevant to the role, or it’s been disclosed in the past in similar situations). Once the enhanced check is returned to you, you will then know whether the police have decided to disclose it, and you can then make a decision as to whether to either (a) seek a review of the police force’s decision, or (b) disclose this information to the employer.
- One of the most important things is to be sure what is on your police record – get a copy if you’re not sure.
- There is rarely a right or wrong way to disclose your convictions. It is very much down to what you most feel comfortable with doing. This will depend on the details of your convictions, as well as the type of roles you are applying for.
- So long as you are not disclosing more than what you need to (i.e. spent convictions for jobs not exempt from the ROA), it usually pays to be as honest and open as you can be, at the earliest (but also most appropriate) opportunity.
- If you disclose, you should try to keep a written copy of what you have disclosed (providing the employer with that too) so that you have this in case it comes up again in the future.
- If you’ve not got cautions or convictions, and only allegations or other ‘local police information’, it’s unlikely that it will come up on an enhanced DBS check. Now that DBS checks get sent to you, you will know whether or not the police has decided to disclose it.
- There are very rarely any hard-and-fast rules about what employers must do in response to criminal records.
- Generally, employers respond best when convictions are disclosed face-to-face, when you get a chance to explain the circumstances and try to alleviate any immediate concerns that they may have.
- We regularly speak to people with convictions who have managed to find employment in all different sectors and professions. These cases continue to show us that there are many employers out there who are willing to give people a chance. The numbers of these types of employers may not be as high as we’d like, but it shows that you should never give up – if you continue trying, you will eventually find an employer than is willing to look beyond your conviction and employ you because they think that you are the best person for the job.
Frequently asked questions
Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get asked about disclosing to employers and the answers we generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s may be included in the information pages above.
You have options – you can disclose before application, on the application form, before interview, at interview, after interview, after job offer or once you start. There are pro’s and con’s to all of these approaches. You need to think about how to disclose your record to an employer. Click here for more information.
You really only have to tell your employer about criminal convictions if this could have an impact on your employer and your ability to do your job.
However, there may be circumstances where because of the nature of the organisation or work that you do, that a criminal conviction could be relevant. For example if you work for a Government body or were in finance and you were convicted of a criminal offence of say, dishonesty, then this could be relevant to your employer.
It is also worth looking at what information you disclosed when you first started working for them. Most employers ask questions relating to criminal convictions. Furthermore, they will often ask that you make them aware of any changes to the details that you provided in the application form. If you are made aware of an ongoing duty to disclose when you first take up employment, then you must inform your employer of any conviction obtained subsequently.
If you did tell your employer, it is possible that they would try to dismiss you. If they did decide to do this, then you could try to argue unfair dismissal and they would have to justify the reasons for the dismissal and that it was fair in all circumstances. If your conviction had nothing whatsoever to do with your particular role or the organisation, then it would appear difficult to justify this in the circumstances. However, cases that we have dealt with leave us to suggest that often employers will try any means possible to justify your dismissal.
Unfortunately, discrimination based on past convictions is not directly included in anti-discrimination legislation.
If you have any unspent convictions, these will show up on a basic disclosure check and, by definition, a check means that the employer wants to take criminal records into account and, where necessary, dismiss individuals.
If it was a condition of your job that a basic check would be done, then you will have to consent to this or risk your position.
In addition, if you were asked about unspent convictions when you took the job, it would be difficult to challenge an employer who wished to confirm this information with a basic check, although if they didn’t make this a condition of your employment then you shouldn’t have to pay for it.
If you have been employed for more than two years, and you weren’t asked about your criminal record when you took the job, you should be able to refuse to consent to the check, and you might have a strong claim for unfair dismissal should this cost you your job. However, unless you are in a union that would be prepared to fund an Employment Tribunal claim, in practice you might not be able to pursue it because of the demands it would make on you. The other potential problem is that the employer might argue that the dismissal was fair because it was on the basis of an unspent offence. You could counter this argument by stating that you were not asked when originally employed. For this reason, you should tread warily.
You should seek legal advice before agreeing to anything. At the very least you should be asking the employer in writing why the checks now and what the employer intends to do with the information. The written replies might be useful in contesting matters at a later stage, but verbal replies would be no good. Depending on the legal advice and the information you get from the employer, you might be better off refusing the request. This might lead to your dismissal, but you might have stronger legal grounds than you would if you were dismissed on the basis of the basic disclosure check.
If they did ask, did you disclose? If yes, have you got proof that you disclosed? If you have, doing a check should not affect your job.
If they did ask and you didn’t disclose, its up to the employer to pursue the matter as they see fit.
‘The person questioned shall not be subjected to any liability or otherwise prejudiced in law by reason of any failure to acknowledge or disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction in his answer to the question’
This means that if you are asked questions about being dismissed or whether you have been subject to disciplinary action and answering the question would flag up your spent conviction, then the ROA suggests that you answer ‘No’ to this question.
Firstly, try to establish whether the employer will be doing any type of formal criminal record check and, if so, what type of check .
If you’re unsure about the details of your criminal record and can’t work out whether it’s spent, or you don’t have enough information to decide whether it’s eligible for filtering, then completing the form will be difficult.
If you choose not to disclose your conviction to the employer and it subsequently shows on your certificate, then the employer may see this as a breach of trust and could withdraw the job offer.
If you do disclose the conviction and it doesn’t appear, either because it’s spent (in the case of a basic check) of has been filtered from a standard/enhanced check, then you’ve made the employer aware of something that legally they have no right to know. Hopefully, it will make no difference to the employer or to the job offer and they will disregard it. However, it’s important to realise that it could.
Only you can decide what the best option for you is.
We would always recommend that before you start applying for jobs, or to college/university or when purchasing insurance, you find out about your criminal record. You can do this by applying for a subject access request (SAR). Once you have this, you’ll be able to work out what you should or should not disclose.
Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to disclosing to employers that we refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.
Read personal stories
The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
Discuss this with others
Read and share your experiences of this on our online forum.
Key sections include:
- What, when and how to disclose
- Receiving a criminal record whilst in employment – When and how to disclose
- Disclosing the criminal record of a partner
Help us with our policy work on this
Read more about the policy work we’re doing on:
- scrapping the Disqualification by Association regulations
- supporting and challenging employers in how they treat people with convictions
- Stopping misleading questions asked by employers, insurers, housing providers and others.