Criminal Convictions and Employment

Application for any type of employment and especially during the recruitment process you are bound to be asked if you have any previous criminal convictions. Before you answer this question, you must know the impact your answer may have on your chances of obtaining the employment contract you may have been working hard for and for a long time period.

“Spent conviction”

The starting point you must know is that that as a potential employee you cannot be refused an employment because of a previous criminal conviction if that conviction is ‘spent’, except in certain circumstances and it would be illegal for an employer to refuse a job opportunity purely on the basis of a spent conviction.


A ‘spent’ conviction applies to sentences of four years or less. A conviction becomes spent after a certain amount of time has elapsed since completion of the sentence. The amount of time that has to pass before a conviction becomes spent varies depending on the length of the sentence.

For example, in custodial sentences, a sentence of 0-6 months will be spent after 2 years.  A sentence of 30 months- 4 years will become spent after 7 years. Custodial sentences of over four years are never spent and will have a significant impact on your ability to obtain any employment.

Non-Custodial Sentences

Non-custodial sentences such as fines and community orders are spent after a year and your disclosure in the application generally does not have an impact on your chances of obtaining a particular employment. Where an employer does prohibits the new recruits on the bases of spent non-custodial sentences, such employer has to prove that such policy was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim

In regard to cautions, two types exist. ‘Conditional’ cautions are spent after 3 months whereas ‘simple’ cautions become spent immediately.

However, many jobs require a criminal background check to establish the suitability of job candidates. This may apply in cases where the role requires interaction with vulnerable people such as children or the elderly. This kind of check is called a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service). If, after making this check, the employer discovers that a person is not suitable, the employer may withdraw the offer of employment.


For further assistance, speak to our experienced Employment lawyers instantly for an initial consultation. You can instruct our lawyers on a fixed fee basis. You can also use our Business Assist for cost-effective business solutions.


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This article is written by our legal content writer James Chalkley (LLB. LLM.)

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