Anything between a quarter and a third of adult men in the UK have a criminal conviction. In most cases these are for very minor issues, and a “one-off” rather than a pattern of wider offending. Many people who do have a criminal record worry about how it will affect their job prospects going forward. Do you really have to still tell employers about a teenage shoplifting conviction when you’re in your 40s? Unfortunately, the answer’s not as straightforward as you might think.


Spent Convictions

In most cases, convictions and cautions become spent after a set period of time, which varies according to how much time has passed since your conviction, and how old you were at the time. If your conviction is spent, then your employer is not allowed to require you to disclose it, and you are under no obligation to volunteer the information to them. A spent conviction will remain on the police record but will not affect your life in most situations.


Disclosure Checks

The one exception o all of this is when someone is applying for a job which requires a Disclosure Check, also known as a DBS check. These are criminal records checks which are most commonly associated with jobs in healthcare or working with children, but which also apply to people working in finance, the court system and other positions of responsibility. A standard or enhanced DBS check will look at your spent record as well as anything more current, but that still doesn’t mean that your old convictions will be automatically disclosed.


Youth Cautions

Many of the people who have a very distant police record have police cautions – a record of an official reprimand by the police for a minor offence which never went to court. A recent change to working practices at the DBS means that these minor matters are disregarded as a matter of course and will not appear on a standard or enhanced DBS check unless they were the start of a long list of criminal offences. In most cases though, you can rest easy knowing that your employer isn’t ever going to find out that you were cautioned for drunken behaviour or graffiti at the age of 17.


Other Distant Offences and Filtering

If your conviction happened when you were older, or were more serious, then that still doesn’t mean that your convictions or cautions will be disclosed as a matter of course. The police will go through a process called filtering. This means that they will look at what is on your police record and assess it against the position you have applied for. If the police feel that the conviction is very minor, or irrelevant to the position you wish to work in, then they will filter them out, which means removing them entirely from your certificate.

The DBS isn’t about stopping anyone with a criminal record from getting a job – far from it. The aim of filtering is to give people a fresh start and ensure one minor mistake doesn’t tarnish job prospects forever.