An illustration of a CV and a block displaying two sides, with one showing an employee and the other showing a person in prison attire. There is a magnifying glass sitting on top of the block.
Image: © Piscine26/

What should you do if an employee has a criminal past?

3 Aug 2023

BrightHR’s Alan Price discusses the subject of hiring workers with criminal records and what to do if a current employee has a criminal past.

When hiring, looking for specific skills plays a huge part in the decision-making process. Whether you’re on the lookout for a data engineer with data analysis skills, or perhaps a site manager with project management skills – it’s likely you’ll already have the perfect CV in mind.

You might also have a list of attributes you want, like being a team player, or specific qualification requirements. What’s potentially unlikely to be at the top of your checklist is a candidate with a previous criminal conviction.

But before you rule anyone out of the process for good, here’s some advice on how hiring employees with a criminal past can benefit your business and find out the employment laws you should follow if you do.

Don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this case an employee by past mistakes)

Employers could be missing out on valuable employees by automatically discarding applications from candidates with convictions.

To discount those with past convictions not only carries the risk of claims being brought against employers, but it also limits the talent pool and overlooks the value of inclusivity and equality.

Giving people a second chance could help you widen your talent scope and start bridging the skills gap. Not to mention introducing more diverse abilities to your workplace.

A great success story is Timpson, which is the UK’s largest employer of ex-offenders, with 10pc of the workforce having served time. Founder and CEO James Timpson makes no secret of his support and says employing ex-offenders has contributed significantly to the business’ success and positive reputation.

Click here to go to the BrightHR website.

Avoid landing yourself in legal trouble!

First-things-first, understanding how different convictions affect different jobs, roles, and industries can help you assess if hiring ex-offenders is feasible in your line of work. It can also help you to make sure your hiring process is fair and lawful.

Usually, spent convictions – where a certain amount of time (the rehabilitation period) has passed since the conviction – don’t need to be disclosed to employers during the hiring stage.

But there are certain roles, for example solicitors, accountants, and teachers, where it’s a requirement that all spent convictions be disclosed during the application process and candidates may be subject to a criminal record check, like a DBS check.

Remember, it’s unlawful for employers to refuse to hire someone because of a spent conviction. Jobseekers don’t have to tell you about any unspent convictions unless you ask. That’s why it’s sometimes best to err on the side of caution and avoid asking when hiring.

What should you do if one of your current employees has a criminal past?

If someone’s already employed when you find out they’ve had a conviction that’s considered spent in the eyes of the law, it might make you rethink their position in your company.

But remember, it’s automatically unfair to dismiss someone because they have a spent conviction – but this protection only applies once the employee has been with you for at least two years.

By Alan Price

Alan Price is the CEO at BrightHR and COO at the Peninsula Group. A version of this article was previously published on the BrightHR blog.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading