Nervous young woman waiting outside office for her job interview

Know Your Rights: Should I Disclose A Criminal Record?

Many ex-offenders fear applying for work because they assume they’ll be rejected. But not all employers check applicants for a criminal record using the Disclosure and Barring Service, (known as a DBS check). Before writing ourselves off, it’s worth thinking about whether the conviction has any bearing at all on the job we’re going for.

Also, is the offense ‘spent’. (More about this: If a conviction is spent, employers should not take any action against us if they find out about them. Unless an exception applies, you can answer “no” if you are asked at interview if you have any convictions.

Many people feel it is important to be honest. It’s also true that trust is harder to build if we’re constantly on the run from our own conscience. So being able to make a good account of our past means we can reassure a new boss that we pose no risk to their organisation. Good employers run a risk assessment where workers can not only reassure them, but feel more secure in themselves, by:

  • Explaining how things have changed since the time of the offence
  • Outlining any possible triggers and commit to the steps we’ll take if we’re at risk. (For example, people with alcohol addiction that has caused trouble in the past might agree to notify HR or a line manager if they feel at risk of relapse and to access support straight away)
  • Agreeing any extra measures that could ensure nothing will get in the way of doing a good job now

Not all bosses are good at this but when applying for work, we should seriously ask whether we’d be at risk of offending again. If so, move onto something else. If not, go for it but if the employer says it’s a “no”, accept this wasn’t the right role (or the right boss) right now.