Thames Valley Probation Handling a criminal record

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1 Thames Valley Probation Handling a criminal record Introduction If you are asked if you have any criminal convictions on a job application or by an employer during an interview you must tell them. This is called disclosure. Taking care about the way you answer questions or present yourself to an employer can make a big difference. If you refuse to answer a question or lie about your offences you could end up with another conviction for obtaining employment fraudulently. If you decide to lie at interview or not come clean about your conviction because you weren t asked, you will have to live with this and the fear that you could be discovered and sacked. This does not mean that all jobs will be closed to you or that no-one will employ you or give you a place at college. An employer should take relevancy of the offence into account. There are some places and jobs where certain types of conviction or offences are relevant. This means that an offence that you have been convicted for could have some bearing on your suitability for a job. An example of this could be where you have committed credit card fraud. In this case an employer in a shop or somewhere where you handle money would be concerned that further fraud or theft could be committed were you to handle other people s money. The relevance of your conviction to certain jobs and activities means that some could be closed to you. The sentence you were given in court is important in exploring how your record can affect your eligibility for a job. It is just as important to consider your attitude and how you present yourself. The information in this handout about jobs may also be relevant if you are thinking about applying for voluntary work, joining some clubs and societies, applying for a college or training course or housing. 1

2 The Law TELLING AN EMPLOYER ABOUT YOUR CONVICTIONS If you are asked by a potential employer if you have a criminal record by law you should disclose it. The question is usually asked on an application form but sometimes it could come up at an interview. If you don t tell and get the job you could be prosecuted if they find out or you could get the sack. If you get a new conviction whilst you are employed and you don t tell the employer if asked, they could sack you if they find out. but If they never asked you and you hadn t lied or tried to hide your record then they don t have any right to dismiss you. If you don t disclose you will have to live with that decision and the risk that your employer could find out from someone else. SPENT CONVICTIONS For some convictions you won t have to declare them for ever. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 states that convictions that are spent need not be disclosed and will not appear on a criminal record certificate unless the job is exempt or excepted from the Act. Spent means that most convictions need not be declared once a certain amount of time has passed (known as the rehabilitation period) from the date of conviction. This can allow you to put the past behind you. Some convictions are never spent. These are mainly prison sentences of 2½ years or more. Sexual and violent offences are subject to different rules. 2

3 SENTENCE REHABILITATION PERIOD Fixed Under 18 when convicted Over 18 when convicted Prison sentence of six months or less 1 3½ years 7 years Prison sentence between 6 months and 2½ years 1 Sentences of for more that 2½ years imprisonment can never be spent. 5 years 10 years Fines and curfew orders 2½ years 5 years Absolute discharge 6 months 6 months Community orders (Probation)) 2½years 5 years Some jobs are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which means that no conviction for any offence can be seen as spent. The type of jobs that are exempt are those that involve vulnerable people such as children, the elderly or the mentally ill so this includes medical staff, accountants, public appointments such as work in the criminal justice system and work that involves national security. 3

4 THE POLICE ACT 1997 The Police Act allows employers to be able to find out more easily about criminal records through the use of Criminal Record Certificates and through special checks for relevant jobs which are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) an agency of the Home Office, helps employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors identify candidates who may be unsuitable for certain work, especially that involving contact with children or other vulnerable members of society. A Criminal Conviction Certificate (CCC) will show unspent convictions. It will not show minor offences. Employers can ask to see these if they are registered with the CRB. Some employers will be able to gain enhanced access to records for jobs which are exempt under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act showing spent convictions. 4

5 Disclosure WHY? Arguments against: It may take longer to find a job. You will have to make more applications and face rejections. It can be very difficult explaining your record to an employer. It is possible that the information you give at interview could be leaked to others. Arguments for: Legally you must disclose all unspent convictions if asked. The Police Act 1997 (see page 3) makes it much more difficult to conceal your criminal record from employers. You will not have to live with the fear of the employer finding out about your past from others. Giving information voluntarily may be seen by the employer as an attempt to start afresh and may count in your favour by showing that you are open and not intending to deceive. If you give the employer the actual information yourself, it may improve your credibility and support your position in the light of any information provided by others. WHEN? Application forms: Where an application form asks if you have a conviction, it is best to say Yes, I prefer to discuss at interview or see accompanying statement. Put the letter/statement in a separate envelope marked clearly private and confidential for the Personnel Manager. Give only a brief statement saying that more information will be discussed at interview. Ask your Job Deal Caseworker for help preparing a statement. Remember that once you have signed an application form it becomes a legal document. If you leave the section blank where it asks about criminal convictions blank or answer none it is possible that you could be prosecuted if you are found 5

6 out. Before sending off the application form and statement (if used) it is a good idea to get your Offender Manager or Job Deal Caseworker to read it so that they can tell you how the information comes across You should not give information over the telephone. It is far better to meet the employer face to face. During an interview: At the interview you will have a chance to discuss your convictions and answer any questions the employer might have. Meeting you face to face will also help overcome some of the employer s fear about employing an ex/offender and help break down any stereotypical views they might have. Points to think about and prepare for before you go to an interview and disclose: How long ago did you receive the conviction? How relevant is it to the job? How your offence may or may not affect your employment What were the circumstances of the offence (keep it brief!) Have your personal circumstances changed since then? Remember you don t have to declare spent convictions unless it s for an excepted job. Three different situations and ways to handle them: 1. You have not disclosed on your application form and you want to disclose, you can say I want to tell you about my criminal record, so that I am honest with you from the start then read or hand over you statement 2. You have disclosed and the employer asks you to explain You can read out your statement Ask if there is any extra information they need which would be relevant to the job you are applying for. 6

7 3. The employer had not asked and you did not disclose on a form and suddenly he/she mentions criminal records. You can say I want to be honest with you and read your statement Yes I have a conviction/s and I have a statement for you What do you need to know (remember relevance). You do get some employers who would like to know all the details but most don t, nor do they need to. What they are and should be interested in is how your record will affect their company, college, insurance etc. Disclosing after an interview is not recommended as neither you nor the employer have had the opportunity to discuss the matter. It can also leave some matters unresolved. If you leave it until after you have had a job offer, the employer may think that you only owned up because your convictions would be exposed in references. You may feel that it is better to disclose after you have been employed for a time, so the employer will be able to judge you on your work. This may well be the case; however, it is difficult to know for sure how the employer will react. They may feel that you have cheated them and be annoyed because it is too late for them to choose another applicant. You may also be legally dismissed or prosecuted. Remember, Job Deal Caseworkers can help you prepare a statement and practice what you are going to say at an interview. The more prepared you are the more confident you will be. For more help and support on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act call the free NACRO helpline for ex-offenders and their family on

8 PERSONAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT GUIDANCE NOTES Steps to disclosure: 1) Explain what the offence was (keep this simple) 2) Explain a little about what was going on in your life which may have led to the offence (e.g. what problems were you facing) 3) If you have no previous convictions, tell then this (or if they are spent) 4) Show remorse (explain that you are very sorry for what you did) 5) Explain what you have done since then to make sure that you do not re offend (e.g. work with Probation Officer, courses you have attended) 6) If during your time in prison or on Probation you have taken any vocational courses tell them this, to show that you have used your time to try to improve your employability, e.g. Transit 7) Explain that you know what you did was wrong but you also know that you have a lot to offer and are just asking for a chance to prove what a great employee you will be. You have more to prove than most people which will mean that you will work harder and be more reliable than anyone else they could employ 8) If they have any concerns explain that they are more than welcome to contact your Probation Officer or Job Deal Caseworker who will be able to answer any of their questions 9) Do not joke, be confident and remember you have a great deal to offer 8

9 PERSONAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT 9

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