Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
Aim of this information
In 2014, changes were made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This information reflects the situation after these changes.
This information forms part of our Rehabilitation of Offenders Act section as well as our disclosing to employers section.
Why is this important?
Once your conviction is spent, you can legally lie about it when applying for jobs requiring a basic check and insurance. This means you can generally answer “no” to the question about convictions. Being aware of how the law works will ensure you are able to work out if your convictions are spent or not.
What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act?
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 gives people with spent convictions and cautions the right not to disclose them when applying for most jobs, and buying insurance. Apart from those given prison sentences of more than 4 years, most people with convictions will benefit from it at some point in their lives. The changes came into force on the 10th March 2014.
What are the benefits of it?
The main benefits of the Act relate to applying for work and insurance. Generally, once spent, you can legally ‘lie’ about your past convictions by answering ‘no’ to a question about convictions.
Applying for work
Once your convictions are spent, the Act gives you the right not to disclose them when applying for jobs, unless the role is exempt from the Act. Most employers with jobs covered by the Act will only ask for ‘unspent’ convictions. If they ask about all convictions, you should check what level of disclosure they’re entitled to, and if it’s only a basic disclosure, then this may be an ineligible check and you can legally withhold any spent convictions.
Applying for insurance
Once your convictions are spent, the Act gives you the right not to disclose them when applying for insurance. For example, spent motoring convictions do not need to be disclosed when applying for car insurance. This applies no matter what question an insurance company asks. Most will only ask for unspent convictions, although some might ask for ‘any convictions in the last 5 years’. If it’s spent, you do not need to disclose it under any circumstances when applying for insurance.
What doesn’t it cover?
It only applies in England and Wales. If you’re applying for work in another country you’ll need to check the disclosure laws that apply in that country.
You may have to disclose spent convictions when applying for jobs that are exempt from the Act. These will normally involve a standard or enhanced criminal record check.
What about further convictions?
If you already have an unspent conviction and you get a further conviction before the earlier one becomes spent, then neither conviction will become spent until the longest of them does. If the further conviction results in a prison sentence of more than 4 years, then neither the second nor the first conviction will ever become spent.
How do I work out if my convictions are spent?
If you only have one conviction, it should be relatively straight-forward to establish whether your conviction is spent by using the tables in this guide. If you have got a number of convictions, it might be more difficult. You can use our online disclosure calculator which will help you to work it out.
Can I get a copy of my unspent convictions?
Yes. You can obtain a list of your unspent convictions by applying for a basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland. The current cost is £25. An employer may also carry out a basic disclosure as part of their recruitment process (but they’d need your permission to do this).
When can spent convictions be taken into account?
There are many jobs or roles where you might need to disclose your spent convictions particularly when applying for certain jobs or volunteer work. Examples include:
Working with children and other vulnerable groups (jobs such as teachers, social workers, doctors, dentists, chemists and nurses).
Working in professions associated with the justice system (such as solicitors, police, court clerks, probation officers, prison officers and traffic wardens).
These jobs will usually involve a standard or enhanced criminal record check. It is important to realise that these types of checks will show both spent and unspent convictions and cautions. The only exception to this is where your caution or conviction is eligible to be filtered.