Can I employ someone with a criminal record?

In short, yes. Many employers (including those in health and social care or legal professions) employ people with criminal records and have positive experiences of doing so.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) requires all employers to consider unspent convictions when determining whether an applicant is suitable for the role applied for. Understandably, many employers have concerns about recruiting people with unspent convictions or who believe, incorrectly, that they cannot employ someone for legal reasons or insurance purposes.

The only circumstances in which an employer may not legally recruit a person with a certain type of offending history is where the offending history has led to the individual being barred from regulated activity with either children, adults, or both. If you are recruiting for a role that is defined as regulated activity with children or adults, it is your responsibility to check the barred status of your employees and you may not employ a person who has been barred from working with the relevant group.

An assessment of the applicant’s skills, qualifications, experience, and conviction circumstances should be weighed up against the risk assessment criteria for the job. To determine whether a criminal record is relevant, the information should be assessed in relation to the tasks which need to be performed and the circumstances in which the work is to be carried out. You might like to consider the following when deciding whether the offence is relevant to the post applied for:

  • Does the post involve one-to-one contact with children or other vulnerable groups as employees, customers, or clients?
  • What level of supervision will the post-holder receive? Is it unsupervised? Does it involve working in isolation?
  • Does the post involve any direct responsibility for finance or items of value?
  • Does the post involve direct regular contact with the public?
  • Will the nature of the job present any opportunities for the post-holder to reoffend in the course of work?
  • Are there any safeguards which can be put in place to minimise any potential risks?

In all other circumstances, it is completely at the discretion of the employer to make their own recruitment decisions.

If you have any concerns about how to recruit people with criminal records fairly and safely contact us at

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