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In 2014, the law around hiring ex-offenders changed, bringing with it confusion and a heightened risk of dishonesty and suspicion between employer and employees. Albert Bargery talks about the changes to The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) and how employers can avoid an unfair dismissal claim.
The Government has reduced rehabilitation periods as part of an initiative to get more ex-offenders back into paid work. Once rehabilitation is complete, the conviction becomes "spent" and the individual is not obliged to disclose their conviction in a job application or during interview, even when asked.
How has the law changed?
Under the new ROA regulations, an offender with a sentence of six months or less will have their record wiped clean after two years' rehabilitation. For a sentence of between six and 30 months, the conviction is spent after four years' rehabilitation and seven years rehabilitation applies for a crime between 30 and 48 months.
If sentences are concurrent, then the conviction is spent based on the longest of the sentences. For example, a four-month sentence running consecutively with a six-month sentence would amount to a 10-month sentence, and therefore the rehabilitation period would be 48 months, or four years.
Employers should also be aware that a huge number of non-custodial sentences are awarded each year. For example, for a community or youth rehabilitation order, the rehabilitation period is 24 months from the date of conviction. A simple caution becomes spent immediately, while a conditional caution becomes spent after three months.
Exemptions from the changes
Certain sentences are expressly excluded from rehabilitation under the 1974 Act, such as life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term exceeding 48 months.