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New law on spent convictions

Employers who require employees to disclose ‘spent’ convictions could be committing a criminal offence.

New rules on the rehabilitation of ex-offenders have come into force. They reduce the period of time after which an offence becomes ‘spent’ (no longer counts) and doesn’t need to be disclosed. There are some exceptions – mainly jobs involving contact with vulnerable adults and children – but on the whole people will be able to put their past behind them far more quickly and be treated as though their convictions never happened.

Employers should tread carefully here. It’s wrong to refuse to employ someone, or dismiss someone, based on a spent conviction. And in most cases, it’s now wrong to ask job applicants about spent convictions or cautions. Remember, too, that criminal convictions are ‘sensitive personal data’ under the Data Protection Act.