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Ex Offender Employment Rights

Check how the law on criminal records applies to ex offenders and employment. This section also covers spent convictions, rehabilitation, and the exceptions for DBS checks.

SPENT CONVICTIONS: Employers must follow all recruitment rules.

That means they need a valid reason to turn someone down for a job.

Being convicted of an offence is not a valid reason by itself – providing it is a ‘spent conviction‘.

As a rule, there is no legal requirement for job applicants to inform their potential employers about any spent convictions or cautions.

Note: Some exceptions apply to ex-offender employment rights (see below).

What is a Spent Conviction?

There are several different types of prison sentences in the United Kingdom. Having a conviction with a 4 year sentence (or less) will ‘eventually‘ become spent at some point.

The time that a conviction takes to become spent is also known as the ‘rehabilitation period‘. The length of this period gets determined by the severity of the penalty.

Rehabilitation Periods: England and Wales

  • Custodial Sentence 0-6 Months: 2 year rehabilitation period (from the end of the sentence).
  • Custodial Sentence 6-30 Months: 4 year rehabilitation period (from the end of the sentence).
  • Custodial Sentence 30 Months to 4 Years: 7 year rehabilitation period (from the end of the sentence).
  • Custodial Sentence Over 4 Years: Never.

This list shows non-custodial sentences and the rehabilitation period from end of each different type of sentence.

  • Community Order: 1 year.
  • Fine: 1 year (from the date of the conviction).
  • Absolute Discharge: none.

Being convicted and under 18 when it happened means the rehabilitation period gets halved. There is an exception for sentences up to 6 months. In this case, it would be the sentence period plus an extra 18 months.

Note: Different rehabilitation periods apply in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

Criminal Record Check Exceptions

In some cases, the job position may require a criminal record check (DBS). The check may show that the applicant is not suitable for the job due to a spent conviction or caution.

In cases such as these, the employer may withdraw the job offer and not breach any discrimination rights. The employer should then inform the applicant that an exception applies.

The Disclosure and Barring Service carry out these types of criminal record checks. It replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Thus, CRB checks are now called Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Note: Refusing to give someone a job because they have a spent conviction or caution is against the law. An exception would apply if the basic DBS check shows the person is unsuitable for the job.

Simple Cautions and Conditional Cautions

  • Simple Cautions: Become spent immediately.
  • Conditional Cautions: Become spent after 3 months.

Employing Ex-offenders

As an employer, you can register with the Ministry of Justice to get further information about offering training and employment to ex-offenders.

Ex Offenders and Employment in the United Kingdom