A question of fairness: John Lewis Partnership

The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) includes Waitrose and John Lewis. Their online application form asks applicants to indicate whether they have an unspent conviction.

The question is compulsory. Selecting ‘Yes’ from the drop-down menu leads to the request for details. The application doesn’t explain why this information is necessary, or what will happen to it.

What happens next?

If an applicant is selected for interview, the HR team will contact them for further information. JLP will then decide whether to interview the applicant, suggest an alternative role, or decide the person is not suitable. For example, the considerations that would be necessary for a home delivery driver might not be relevant for a warehouse job. There are no blanket bans on offence types.

JLP don’t carry out official criminal records checks for most roles. Some require a basic DBS check – for example, home delivery drivers and roles that involve finance or data handling responsibilities.






Unlock’s position is that asking without checking is likely to be excessive collection of data. Personal data of any kind should only be collected if it is necessary. If it is necessary to ask about criminal records, it is necessary to verify. With no policy in place, applicants won’t know how their information will be handled. We know that this will put some people off applying. JLP say that they do consider whether information is relevant to the role and suggest alternative roles if they think it’s necessary.

The GDPR means employers must demonstrate the necessity of collecting personal data. We don’t think JLP have done that and we will continue to work with them to ensure their process is compliant.

Further information

Learn more about asking for self-disclosure.  If you ask about criminal records, how can you make sure your process is GDPR compliant?


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