Would it surprise you to learn that an estimated 25% of the UK population have some sort of criminal record? Around 10 million of us have had some sort of brush with the law in the past, so the chances are that if you’re employing people to work in your business, you’re going to have some applicants who have a criminal record. But is this necessarily an issue?


Asking About Criminal Records

It goes without saying that there are degrees of crime. Anyone can see that someone who has a string of convictions for violence is more of a risk to your business and other members of staff than someone who got involved in a drunken fight aged 19 and has never offended since. If you’re recruiting for a position which requires DBS checking you’re at an advantage as you can request DBS checks on your prospective employees to see exactly what information the Police hold about them. Not all offences, cautions and arrests will be disclosed, but the serious ones will be and the Police reveal other offences and information where they declare it relevant. If you’re recruiting for a position where DBS doesn’t apply, such as a retail or office job which has nothing to do with vulnerable people, then you are still entitled to ask applicants whether they have a criminal past, or any convictions which are legally considered as spent. Although you won’t be able to check up on what your employees tell you except in very specific circumstances, lying about a criminal record and being found out at a later date will count as grounds for sacking due to gross misconduct.


The DBS check has shown convictions – what do I do?

Employers have discretion when it comes to deciding whether or not to employ someone who has convictions or cautions disclosed on their police check forms. Employers aren’t forbidden by law from employing someone who has a criminal record but will usually want to understand the circumstances of the offence and weigh up issues like the length of time since the conviction and what the applicant has been doing more recently. Applicants are usually advised to mention things which they know will appear on DBS checks at the interview stage, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the form is received. As long as employers have a robust and fair procedure for evaluating criminal records, they can choose whether to employ or not.


Exceptions – Barring Lists

There are some circumstances in which employers do not have discretion or any flexibility over employment decisions. In cases of serious crimes, people convicted may be placed on one or more Barred Lists. These are centrally held registers of people who cannot be employed working with children, vulnerable adults or other groups. If an applicant’s name appears on one of these lists they cannot legally be employed, and the fact that they have tried to get employment despite being on one of the barred lists should be reported to the Police.