One of the most important concepts in DBS checking is whether or not the occupation is exempt, or whether the employer is allowed to ask exempted questions. This topic is related to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and it might affect anyone who has had a brush with the law – however minor – in the past. It’s not as complicated as it might initially appear.


Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is a piece of UK-wide legislation which is all about allowing people who have had a criminal caution or conviction to make a fresh start and gain employment. That doesn’t mean that offences are disregarded immediately though, there’s a sliding scale depending on the severity of the offence and the age of the person at the time. Someone who commits a minor offence under the age of 18 may find that their offence is disregarded in as little as six months. A disregarded offence is known as “spent”.

In most circumstances, asking a candidate about spent convictions is illegal. Employers aren’t allowed to ask, and as a candidate, you’re not obliged to tell them anything. Usually, the question on the application form will say something along the lines of “Do you have any criminal convictions or cautions which are not considered spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act?”


Exempted Questions

If you are applying for job which requires a DBS check, then employers are allowed to ask these questions which they’re banned from asking under other circumstances. That’s because standard and enhanced DBS checks will look more deeply into an applicant’s background and into convictions which are spent. Organisations recruiting for these jobs are therefore allowed to ask “exempted” questions. In other words, they aren’t breaking the law by asking you to disclose offences which perhaps happened decades ago.


Advice For People with Criminal Records

Around a third of all adult men in the UK have had some sort of brush with the law in the past according to statistics. So, if you’re worried about what a DBS check might show up, then you’re not alone. Of course, not all jobs require a DBS check in the first place, so one option is just to look into the wide range of jobs where all you will be asked to disclose is your unspent convictions.

Even if you are applying for a job which requires a DBS check, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your criminal record is going to rule you out. Employers should be assessing each applicant on their merits, and a minor criminal conviction isn’t automatically going to rule you out. If your conviction or caution is a long time ago, and you can prove that in the interim you’ve kept out of trouble, then they are likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. There are also lots of ex-offender charities who can give you advice based on your individual circumstances if you’re concerned about job prospects in the future.