Can a candidate be rejected on the basis of an unspent conviction?

While, with certain exceptions, it is unlawful under s.4(3)(b) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 to refuse to employ a "rehabilitated" person on the ground of a spent conviction, the same does not apply to unspent convictions.

However, if an employer automatically rejects candidates with a criminal record, regardless of when or how they got it, it will be discounting a large proportion of potentially suitable workers. In deciding whether or not an applicant with an unspent conviction is suitable for a position an employer should take into account issues such as whether or not the offence is relevant to the job, how recent it was, and whether it was a one-off or one of a number.