Changes to the recruitment process of a cleaning company whose application form was unclear about spent convictions

We were recently pointed towards a large cleaning company that had a question on its application form for a job cleaning commercial offices which stated:

“Criminal Record  o Yes      o No”

The question didn’t make it clear that an applicant doesn’t need to disclose any spent convictions when applying for a role covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

We contacted the cleaning company highlighting our concerns about the current question and setting out the implications of not providing applicants with clear guidance:

  • Applicants may be confused about whether they need to disclose their spent convictions and could provide more information than the company is entitled to know.
  • Experienced and skilled individuals with spent convictions may be put off from applying because they believe they’re being asked to disclose them.
  • Where more information than necessary is disclosed, the company may run the risk of taking something into account which they are not legally allowed to hold. This could potentially lead to action being taken against them under data protection legislation.

The company requested further help and advice from us and by working with them, the decision was made to totally remove the question about criminal records from their application form.

Lessons

This case shows how by working with employers it is possible to effect changes that makes the recruiting process fairer for people with convictions.

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Christopher Stacey