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Case study – Employers need to keep track of changes in legislation to ensure guidance given to employees is correct

We were recently contacted by an individual who wished to highlight some out of date information which he’d seen on the website of a courier company in relation to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

In an FAQ on their careers website, the company had posed the following question:

“What’s is meant by an unspent conviction?”

The response was:

“You are not required to disclose spent convictions covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in the UK or under your equivalent national legislation. A conviction becomes ‘spent’ after a certain length of time, which varies depending upon the sentence and your age at the time of conviction. If you have ever been convicted of an offence for which a sentence of more than 2 years was imposed (regardless of the amount you have actually spent in prison) then this conviction can never become spent”.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was amended in March 2014 and the 2 years stated related to previous legislation (even though technically it was 2.5 years – so it was even incorrect back then). Any applicants who were unaware of the change in the law in 2014 could potentially disclose information that they didn’t need to. If the courier company were to use this information to make a recruitment decision then they could be in breach of data protection legislation.

We contacted the courier company providing them with details of the changes to the ROA. They immediately responded, providing us with details of the updates they’d made to the wording of the FAQ.

“You are not required to disclose spent convictions covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in the UK or under the equivalent national legislation. A conviction becomes ‘spent’ after a certain length of time, which varies depending upon the sentence and your age at the time of conviction. If you have ever been convicted of an offence for which a sentence of more than 4 years was imposed (regardless of the amount you have actually spent in prison) then this conviction can never become spent.”

Lessons

This case demonstrates how, if employers don’t keep track of changes to legislation, mistakes can be made in the guidance they give to applicants. However, as in this case, immediately the issue was raised with the company, they reacted quickly to amend their guidance which now makes the rehabilitation periods very clear to applicants applying for work with them.

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Notes about this case study

This case study relates to our work with other organisations.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published September 2019

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