Time to re-examine reliance on criminal record checks

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Old Bailey law court

Old Bailey law court Many UK businesses use criminal record checks as the final seal of approval in the recruitment process, using it to verify the character and suitability of a job applicant. However, the law change on 10th March 2014 reducing rehabilitation periods for many offences should prompt HR departments and boards to re-examine their approach. Now is the time to consider if they rely too heavily on criminal background checks, instead of also taking into account an individual’s relevant professional and financial history. 

Penalising people for a mistake that took place many years before and which is in no way related to the job role for which they are applying is unfair and ensures that people with criminal convictions are unable to move on from their past indiscretions and into honest work.

Employers should instead base hiring decisions on an impartial assessment of a candidate taking into account what is entirely pertinent to their possible job role and level. For instance, a CEO with unlimited access within an international financial institution should have their relevant criminal history, finances, qualifications, education, work background and media profile analysed and compared to how they present themselves in an interview. A checkout assistant for a local supermarket, on the other hand, may only have very limited access to information and little opportunity to commit fraud or to damage the company’s reputation so might only need to have their recent work history checked.

Added to these issues, businesses should also consider if they need a different policy in place for employees that live in Scotland as they will continue to be subject to the previous legislation on rehabilitation periods. This adds an extra layer of complexity in ensuring a fair and consistent recruitment process for companies with offices and employees living on both sides of the border.


The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any statutes or laws cited in this article should be read in their entirety. If you or your customers have questions concerning compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations, we suggest that you address these directly with your legal department or outside counsel.

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