DBS Check for Personal Licence

What is the difference between spent and unspent convictions?

If you have committed a crime, whether recently or years ago, you may be worried about undergoing a DBS check. While all DBS checks levels will show unspent convictions, only standard and enhanced level checks will show any convictions that are spent. 

To further complicate matters, some crimes will be filtered out if they are considered ‘protected’.

But what does all of this mean? And how does it impact the likelihood of you being offered a job? Let us explain.

What do spent and unspent convictions mean?

Some crimes will stay on your criminal record indefinitely, such as violent or serious sexual crimes that impact safeguarding, or if an offence resulted in a prison sentence of more than two and a half years. However, other crimes will eventually be removed from your record in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Spent convictions are crimes that have reached this point and have been removed, whereas unspent convictions have not yet, and will still show up on a DBS check. 

Standard and enhanced level checks may still surface a spent conviction, but it is easier to obtain work if your convictions or cautions are considered spent. 

How long does a conviction stay on your DBS?

That depends entirely on your age, whether you were convicted or cautioned, and whether any prison time was involved. See below a breakdown of when a crime may be filtered out:

Age when the crime was committedCaution or convictionWhen filtering occurs 
Under 18CautionTwo years after the caution was processed, as long as the crime is not relevant to safeguarding
Under 18ConvictionFive and a half years after the conviction as long as you weren’t given a prison sentence, have been crime-free since and the crime wasn’t relevant to safeguarding
18 and olderCautionSix years after the caution was processed, as long as the crime is not relevant to safeguarding
18 and olderConvictionEleven years after the conviction as long as you weren’t given a prison sentence, have been crime-free since and the crime wasn’t relevant to safeguarding

Can you get a job with an unspent conviction? 

While a DBS check may uncover an unspent conviction, that doesn’t automatically preclude you from being offered a job. However, it may make it more difficult than if the conviction was spent.

It’s important to remember that potential employers aren’t trying to find a way to reject you; it is their obligation to ensure that everyone you work with or alongside is safe. They have to weigh up whether or not your past makes you ineligible for the position. For example, if your crime involved theft and you were applying to work in a retail store, this would most likely raise a red flag with your potential employer.

Unspent convictions will be highlighted on every DBS check level, so if you do have an unspent conviction, it may be worth considering applying for jobs that don’t require a check to get you into employment as soon as possible.

How long does it take for a conviction to be spent?

Cautions, warnings and reprimands become spent immediately, and conditional cautions are considered spent after three months. The time-frame for which a conviction is deemed spent varies, and things are complicated more if another crime is committed. It’s worth taking a look at the Act itself, the timeline for when convictions become spent is on page three, and there is circumstantial information beneath it.

What does this mean for finding work?

Where DBS checks are involved, it may be easier to find work if your cautions or convictions are spent, as employers are not supposed to consider them during the recruitment process. While you are not automatically taken out of the running for a job if your record shows unspent convictions, it can be more challenging to get a job.  

There are plenty of jobs out there where you won’t be asked to complete a DBS check, however, it’s worth remembering that any prospective employer can request at least a Basic DBS check. Individuals can also apply for a DBS check, and can do so here.

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  1. Pingback: What Information Is On An Enhanced DBS Check? | Care Check

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