Can an employer refuse to employ a candidate with a spent conviction?

If an applicant has a conviction that has become "spent" after the lapse of a defined period of time, the employer must treat the applicant as if his or her conviction has not happened. Generally, a refusal to employ a "rehabilitated" person on the grounds of a spent conviction is unlawful (s.4(3)(b) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). However, there are many exceptions to the Act.

It is lawful to reject a person for employment on the grounds of a spent conviction for certain types of employment, for example employment as a healthcare professional, solicitor or barrister, police officer or teacher (see Quick reference > Jobs where it is lawful to ask for details of spent convictions). If applying for a job in an excluded job category, a job applicant must disclose all convictions, whether or not they are spent. However, it is the duty of the employer to explain to the job applicant that the job falls into one of the excluded categories and advise him or her that disclosure of any spent convictions is required.