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Saturday, July 13, 2024

What Should UK Businesses Know About Hiring Someone with a Criminal Record?

In the UK, it is the responsibility of each and every employer to know exactly who is working for them – and that includes checking for criminal records. In this article, we’re looking at what UK businesses need to know about hiring someone with a criminal record.

The world of recruitment is complex; particularly when it comes to candidates with criminal records. In some cases, this is cut and dried – for example, if a candidate was charged and convicted of a crime against children, they will no longer be able to work with kids.

However, in other cases, the waters are more murky, such as cases where a candidate is currently on pre-charge bail. In this article, we’re going to be explaining what UK businesses need to know about hiring someone with a criminal record.

Can I turn down a candidate who has a criminal record?

As an employer, it’s understandable to have reservations about employing somebody who has a criminal record. However, refusing a job to somebody on these grounds may land you in hot water with the law yourself. The only time you may, by law, refuse to employ somebody with a criminal record is:

  • Your business involves contact with children or their data.
  • Your business is in the healthcare industry.
  • Employment convicted criminals is forbidden by a professional or regulatory body to which your business belongs and answers to, in which case it is a good idea to seek the advice of that regulatory body.

In most other circumstances, you may employ a person with a criminal record. In fact, if you do not do so – and the individual can show evidence that their rejection was because of their criminal record – they may have the right to begin legal action on the grounds of discrimination.

How to find out if a candidate has a criminal record

Around three quarters of UK employers ask candidates about their criminal past, but they don’t all perform the proper checks. This results in the employment of many individuals who should not have been offered a job.

Employers have a responsibility to know who they are employing, and this can be done by requesting a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check on the candidate. In the UK, there are a number of different checks available, and these are:

  • a basic check which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions;
  • a standard check, which shows any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings;
  • an enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role;
  • an enhanced check with barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether you’re on the list of people barred from doing the role.

You will then receive a certificate detailing the candidate’s criminal history.

What if there is a discrepancy between the DBS check and the candidate’s account?

In some instances, an employer will find themselves in a situation whereby the contents of the DBS check differs widely from the candidate’s own account of their  criminal past. The DBS code of practice states that, in this instance, the employer’s first step should be to arrange a meeting with the candidate in order to discuss their concerns. The DBS code of practice also warns against withdrawing a job offer or application without gathering all possible information.

Following a meeting, if it becomes clear that the candidate has deliberately withheld information or has purposely been dishonest, an employer is within their rights to cancel the candidate’s application.

Should I hire somebody with a criminal record?

This is, of course, often down to simple personal choice – and if you have genuine concerns about a candidate, you should not employ them. However, many UK businesses, encouraged by the government, are proactive in employing ex-offenders; believing that those with convictions for minor offences deserve a second chance.

The Government’s New Futures Network is a great resource for matching ex-offenders with employers, and the benefits to employers include:

  • Reduced time and money spent on advertising and recruitment.
  • Helping to reduce reoffending rates.
  • Plugging skills gaps.
  • Bridging gaps in the community.

One such employer taking advantage of the New Futures Network is Timpsons, a retail and repair group founded in Manchester in 1867. Timpson’s Chief Executive, James Timpson OBE, says, ‘It’s a great way of finding amazing people. We look for staff everywhere, but a lot of people who have been in prison are desperate for an opportunity and we find they make great colleagues’.

Give them a second chance

When it comes to committing crime, things are not always black and white. In many cases, individuals fall into a life of crime through poverty, addiction, or a simple mistake. Often, the only thing standing between them and a lifetime cycle of crime is being able to gain employment.

While this may be the case, it’s your job as an employer to protect the safety of all of your employees and the safety and data of your customers and clients. For this reason, it’s good practice to get into the habit of performing checks on potential employees in order to give yourself the peace of mind of knowing the history of the employees who will be working alongside yourself, your staff, and your customers.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained employment law professional. Be sure to consult an employment law professional if you’re seeking advice about hiring. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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