Would it surprise you that according to official statistics, around 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record? Of course, the types of criminal records vary from minor brushes with the law as a teenager through to the habitual career criminal, but there are probably more people with a police record than you may have thought. One of the main worries for anyone with a criminal record is that their past will hinder them getting a job, but is this necessarily the case?
Type of Conviction
The first thing to think about is the type of conviction you have, how long ago it happened and whether it has any relevance to the type of job you are applying for. Crimes of dishonesty such as theft or fraud may be more relevant to jobs involving finance or cash handling, and repeat convictions for drink driving might bar you from taking a job as a taxi driver. But getting into a fight as a teenager and being found guilty of a minor assault or being caught with a very small quantity of a class C drug may be overlooked by the majority of employers. Remember too that things like speeding fines or parking tickets are a civil matter and will not appear on any criminal record. Honesty is always the best policy, so if asked, always tell an employer about any criminal record. Lying and being found out at a later date could lead to instant dismissal.
Getting A Disclosure
For many types of jobs, especially those working with children, vulnerable adults or in certain positions of legal or financial responsibility, you may be asked to go through a process of Disclosure. This involves a detailed check into your background, and rather than the employer just asking you about past convictions, the Police will run checks. The report which comes back from the Police will not stay whether or not the employer should give you a job; it just states what convictions you have and what other information is held about you, and the employer makes their decision based on the facts.
The justice system in the UK recognises that people often make mistakes, and that it is unfair to hold a teenage moment of madness against someone for the rest of their lives. There is a system whereby minor convictions or cautions are considered “spent” and forgotten after a certain period, which depends on the type of offence, how old you were when it happened, and how long ago it was. For many jobs, if a conviction or caution is considered spent, you do not need to disclose it. For some enhanced disclosure checks, even older convictions and cautions which would be considered spent are given on the form. This process is complex, and there is detailed guidance from the government and Police online about what you have to tell employers, and what employers can be told about you and your past.