The question below appeared on the application form for a job at a waste disposal company.
What’s wrong with the wording above?
- It’s not clear. The role is ‘covered by the ROA’ – this means that the applicant doesn’t have to disclose spent convictions. This isn’t made clear in the question.
- It’s misleading. The use of the word “any” suggests that an applicant has to disclose a conviction, even if it is now spent.
- It’s not good practice. The ‘tick-box’ on an application form goes against good practice promoted by the Ban the Box campaign.
- It’s not helpful to the employer. There is no room to provide further details, nor is there any guidance about how to provide further details.
Having a Yes/No question, or providing the applicant with limited space to give full details of their criminal record, won’t provide you with the level of detail needed to help you to make an informed decision. That’s one of the reasons why the Ban the Box campaign is so important.
Employers that ask unclear questions, or ask for more information than they’re entitled to, could be breaching the first principle of the Data Protection Act 1998 by not processing personal data fairly and lawfully. An example of where this has happened is when the Disclosure of Barring Service were found to be asking applicants about all convictions on their own forms, even if the conviction is eligible for filtering and so didn’t need to be disclosed.
- This example is used as part of our guidance on wording questions that ask about criminal records.