As it stands, an employer is not prohibited from asking a job applicant, employee, worker or volunteer about their criminal record. In fact, there are often situations where it is desirable for an employer to carry out checks to ensure that customers or clients are protected from those who have committed certain types of offences. However, following a change to the law on 10 March 2015, it is now a criminal offence for employers to require any of the above list to produce a copy of their criminal record under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Employers are entitled to ask prospective employees about their criminal history and any information they voluntarily disclose can be considered in determining the suitability of the candidate for the proposed role. Despite this, it is not always wise to rely on verbal assurances, and an employer who wishes to obtain verified information about an employee or job applicant’s criminal record can apply to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)) for disclosure.
An employer must ensure that they follow the correct procedures in obtaining this information and apply for disclosure through the DBS. This is to ensure that employers are only made aware of ‘unspent’ criminal convictions and reduce prejudice towards employees or job applicants with convictions which the government considers ‘spent’ and rehabilitated. If an employer requests that an employee provide a copy of their criminal records to them, the employer would be guilty of a criminal offence.
For more information about this article, or for help making an application to the Disclosure and Barring Service, please contact a member of our Employment Team on 01279 755777.