Criminal record | Criminal record declarations slammed as 'legitimising' discrimination

Criminal record declarations slammed as 'legitimising' discrimination

Employers asking candidates to disclose their criminal records during the recruitment process "legitimises" employer discrimination, a criminologist has warned.

Dr Beth Weaver, a Criminology expert and Senior Lecturer at Strathclyde University, told Sky News that “asking people to disclose their convictions at the job application stage legitimises employer discrimination, as most employers don't know how to make sense of the information provided and undermines the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act."

She added that giving ex-offenders the chance to secure work they will not only improve their contrition towards a safer society but would hugely benefit the individual on a personal level.

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A new paper published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice found that one in six people in the UK has a criminal record.

And, the research has revealed that asking individuals to disclose criminal records on their job applications could deter thousands of potential recruits from applying.

So, it unlawful to ask candidates to disclose criminal convictions?

According to Gov.uk applicants do not have to disclose criminal convictions if they are spent. The length of this is aligned to the crime committed.

The government urges recruiters and hiring managers to treat the applicant as if the conviction never happened once it is considered ‘spent’. However, they do explain that some industry sectors such as education are exempt from this ruling due to the nature of the job (just to be on the safe side, employers can conduct a criminal background check on potential candidates).

What does the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 state?

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, most convictions are considered to be spent after a period of time.

Nacro.org.uk reported: “Once a caution or conviction is spent the person is considered rehabilitated and the ROA treats the person as if they had never committed an offence.

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"This means that jobseekers with criminal records have the right to legally withhold such information from a prospective employer when applying for most jobs.

The specified period of time is determined by the sentence or disposal that was received in respect of a particular offence.”

Do employers still ask candidates about criminal records?

Last year, Recruitment Grapevine reported that nearly 75% of national conglomerates continue to ask jobseekers about their criminal records during the application process.

The research conducted by Unlock found that 22% of employers had phrased questions relating to criminal history in a way that could be either illegal or misleading.

Unlock’s Co-Director, Christopher Stacey, said that employers are not moving quick enough to correct this. He added:

“These findings are unsurprising – employers are asking about criminal records at application stage as a way of deselecting applicants.”

So, in order to increase the chances of ex-convicts securing work, the Ban the Box campaign was rolled out.

What is Ban the Box?

This action was designed to bolster employment opportunities for people with conviction. It is aimed at encouraging employers to remove the check box from their job applications that asks if the candidate has a criminal record.

It has since been backed by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). The REC is the professional body representing the UK recruitment industry.

To make application processes fairer, recruiters are advised to ‘Ban the Box’ and include applicant questions that fairly assess a candidate’s mental agility and capability to do a job. This could be the key to unlocking overlooked talent.



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