Time periods for disclosing criminal convictions reduced

Prison cell
REX/Janine Wiedel

The period of time in which individuals must disclose any criminal convictions to their employer or prospective employer has been reduced in England and Wales from today.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, criminal convictions become “spent” after a set, pre-determined period. In most cases, employees and job applicants who have a spent conviction should be treated as if the conviction never occurred. They can withhold information about their spent conviction from employers.

There are limited exceptions for specific jobs that are excluded from the provisions. Individuals in these roles can be required to disclose spent convictions (other than certain cautions and convictions in some cases).

The period after which a conviction becomes spent – its rehabilitation period – has reduced in England and Wales, with effect from 10 March 2014. Also, rehabilitation periods for custodial sentences now run from when the sentence is completed rather than the date of conviction as was previously the case. As an example, a sentence of one year previously had a rehabilitation period of 10 years from conviction. From 10 March, this is reduced to four years from when the sentence is completed.

Nicola Inge, work inclusion campaign manager at Business in the Community, said: “The Government’s changes show just how punitive the system has been until now. For example, the 800,000 people given a court fine last year would previously have had to disclose their criminal conviction to employers for five years.

“As of 10 March, this large group will only have to disclose their fine for one year – opening up greater opportunity to work and reducing the likelihood they will face employer discrimination.”

Previously, a sentence that exceeded 30 months could never be rehabilitated. Under the new rules, only sentences that exceed 48 months can never be rehabilitated.

The new rehabilitation periods apply retrospectively so that pre-existing convictions in England and Wales at 10 March will become spent according to the revised rehabilitation periods.

The rehabilitation periods in Scotland have not been changed.

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