Will a criminal conviction affect my employability?


30 July 2018

By Alexandra Dean

If you have received a criminal conviction or caution in the past, you may be concerned about your future career prospects. You may be concerned as to whether employers have the right to retract a job offer if they find out about your past conviction or caution.

By law, employers are not able to rule out job applications because of previous convictions, as long as the conviction or the caution has been ‘spent’. In some cases there may be exceptions for this rule.

Spent convictions

The time in which a conviction becomes ‘spent’ depends on the circumstances and the severity of the penalty. Convictions which are for 4 years or less become spent after a period of time, this period of time is known as the ‘rehabilitation period’.

The length of this rehabilitation period varies from England to Wales, and so depends on where you are living within the UK. You can check the variations in rehabilitation periods in England and Wales on the government website: www.gov.uk/ex-offenders-and-employment.

Once a conviction has been ‘spent’, i.e. the rehabilitation period has ended; employers have no right to retract a job offer. In fact, if your conviction is spent, you don’t even have to tell your employer about it.


Simple cautions are when you are given a warning by the police that if you are caught-up with the law within a period of time you may have to go to court. An example of this would be if you are caught doing something against the law within the following 6 months, police could take further action. Simple cautions can become spent immediately, and so will not affect your employability.


Conditional cautions are where certain conditions must be agreed to, such as to pay compensation or issue an apology to a victim. Conditional cautions become spent after 3 months, therefore after 3 months; the conditional caution will no longer affect your employability.

Criminal record/ DSB checks

Due to the nature of some job roles, certain job applications may require a criminal record check. These checks used to be known as criminal record checks (CRB checks), but are now carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service, and are now known as DSB checks.

If the job role you are applying for requires a DBS check, employers are legally allowed to turn down job offers if the applicant has a criminal conviction or a caution, even if it is spent. Jobs that may require DBS checks include jobs working with children or vulnerable adults, licence application roles or positions of authority such as; barristers, veterinary surgeons, prison officers, locksmiths and traffic wardens.

If you would like further information on this article, please contact Alexandra Dean on 01245 228141 or via deana@gepp.co.uk.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.