Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Understanding the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) was introduced in order to protect individuals who are convicted of minor, one time offences from future discrimination. The ROA enables certain convictions to become ‘spent’, or ignored, after a ‘rehabilitation period’.

A rehabilitation period is a set length of time from the date of conviction. After this period, with certain exceptions, an ex-offender is not normally obliged to disclose the conviction when applying for a job, obtaining insurance, or when involved in criminal or civil proceedings. Once a conviction has become spent, the individual can, for most intents and purposes, truthfully declare that they do not have a criminal record. Employers cannot legally ask candidates about spent convictions and cannot consider spent convictions in their recruitment decisions.

Read more information regarding rehabilitation periods.

Exempt Positions

Certain positions are exempt from the ROA. For these exempted positions, employers are entitled to enquire about spent convictions. For some positions, it is a legal requirement for the employer to enquire about spent convictions before hiring the individual.

Typically, a position is considered exempt because it involves frequent contact with children and/or vulnerable adults. In some cases, positions that entail certain types of authority, or individuals with access to certain sensitive information are also considered exempt. This ruling is intended to protect children, other vulnerable groups, and the public from individuals that hold positions of authority over them.

For details of eligibility and those positions which are exempt from the ROA view the official DBS guide.

The Recruitment Decision

Employers have certain responsibilities with respect to the usage of the disclosure information, especially where a criminal conviction has been revealed. Employers are not allowed to refuse an individual employment solely based on the fact that they have a criminal record. They should obtain as much detail as possible about any convictions and make a balanced judgment thereafter, paying careful consideration to the following:

  1. The nature of the offence.
  2. Its relevance to the post, position or profession in question.
  3. How long ago the offence took place.
  4. The person’s age at the time.
  5. Whether it was an isolated offence or part of a pattern of offending.
  6. What is known about the person’s conduct and character prior to or since the offence.

As part of the employer’s responsibility includes assessing the candidate’s behaviour since the offence, Sterling suggests that employers consider conducting reference interviews, employment verifications, credit enquiries, and education verifications as a way of providing a more holistic view of the candidate. This can allow the employer to ascertain whether the offence was a one-time occurrence, or whether it was part of a recurring pattern of dishonest behaviour.

However, the nature of some offences or inclusion on certain lists, such as the Protection of Children Act 1999 (POCA), can be enough to disqualify an individual from specific posts.