Spent convictions are not needed for basic disclosure applications

This case relates to a large background screening company that is registered with the DBS to conduct standard and enhanced checks – they’re a large company in this sector, and have been in the top 10 registered bodies (by number of applications to the DBS) in recent years. As part of their ‘offer’, they also conduct basic checks on new recruits on behalf of employers.

Our helpline for individuals was contacted by somebody who was given a form by this background screening company. They were applying for a marketing role. The form was designed for the individual to give consent to a basic disclosure (which would show unspent convictions). So the individual was rightly confused when they saw a question at the bottom:

“Do you hold any previous spent or unspent convictions that we should be aware of? YES/NO”

The way the form was currently being used had the potential to seriously jeopardise the chances of many people with spent convictions. The form was being given out by those employers that were using the services of this company – the completed forms were asking for more information than legally necessary, and were then being returned to the employer.

For the individual concerned, we advised what they needed to do, but we were keen to make sure the company knew their mistake and acted on it, so we took it up with them.

After making both written and verbal representations to the company concerned, they eventually agreed that there were mistaken in taking this approach and edited their forms accordingly, which is fortunate as we were just about ready to raise the issue with the Information Commissioners Office.

Lessons

When employers (and supposedly ‘expert’ background screening companies) ask applicants to disclose information, it’s important they ask the right question for the role involved. In this particular case, because of the job (a marketing role) they should only be asking applicants to disclose unspent convictions.

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Notes about this case study

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Christopher Stacey