Is It Time to Think Again About Your Approach to Employing Ex-Offenders?

Safe and Fair Recruitment: A guide to employing people with convictions in social care highlights that with 110,000 vacancies across the social care workforce, it’s important to consider applicants on their individual merit, rather than on the basis of events from their past that may have no bearing on their current abilities. Furthermore, rejecting a candidate purely on the basis of having a criminal record could lead to prosecution for discrimination under section 19 of the Equality Act.

Although it may be against your natural instincts to consider an applicant with a criminal record, perhaps it’s time to think again?


For many non-care sector employers, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), means that a criminal conviction is considered ‘spent’ after a specified period of time has elapsed so it should have no bearing on a person’s suitability for employment.

However, many roles in social care involving the delivery of direct care are exempt from the ROA although others, including jobs in catering and administration are covered so it’s essential that you have a clear understanding of how this important piece of legislation applies to your employment practices. In some cases, convictions can date back many years and have little relevance to a person’s suitability for employment so you should always consider each applicant on an individual basis.

5 Steps to Handling Applicants with a Criminal Conviction 

  1. Question with caution: Although it may be routine for your organisation to enquire about criminal convictions at both application and interview stage, be aware that for ROA exempt roles, an applicant does not have to declare any past conviction. Requesting this information for an exempt role could put you at risk of a claim for discrimination if you reject the applicant.
  2. Get the check right: There are currently three levels of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks used within social care services for adults; basic, standard and enhanced, each providing a different level of information. Before employing anyone (with or without a conviction) you must carry out the correct level of check that the role is eligible for. Clearly, many roles will require an enhanced check but if you’re unsure, use the DBS eligibility decision tool on the website to help your decision.
  3. Risk assess: Once you’ve completed all pre-employment checks, use this information to carry out a risk assessment to help determine the applicant’s suitability. If you have any concerns about the information you’ve gathered, probe this further with the applicant before making a final decision.
  4. Induct: If you decide to appoint the applicant, ensure they receive an effective induction, particularly in relation to any areas that may relate to their conviction. This could include safeguarding responsibilities, expectations of behaviour and professional boundaries.
  5. Review regularly: Ongoing review, especially during the probationary period is an important part of supporting someone with a criminal conviction. In some cases, the person may not have been part of the workforce for some time so regular feedback and support is essential in helping them adapt to their new role. Be ready to challenge any unacceptable behaviour and share any concerns, as well as offering praise where progress is made.