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Changes to Rehabilitation Periods

Employment law solicitor Hazel Phillips from Burnetts Solicitors explains changes to rehabilitation periods.

New reforms were introduced in March which have had the effect of reducing the period in which certain convictions will need to be disclosed to employers. Those people working in sensitive workplaces (i.e. working with children) will continue to have to disclose all previous convictions but for those working in non-sensitive roles, convictions will become “spent” much quicker than has been the case up to now.

Legislation in this area dates back to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The aim of such legislation was to assist ex-offenders to obtain gainful employment and to prevent employers from rejecting candidates solely based on past criminal convictions. An ex-offender who has not committed a crime for a certain period is considered ‘rehabilitated’ and is entitled to present him or herself to employers as if no convictions had ever taken place.

The new reforms represent some of the most significant revisions to the legislation to date and are part of the government’s plan to help offenders get back to ‘honest’ work. The government’s rationale for the reforms is backed up by Ministry of Justice research which shows that former offenders who gain employment are unlikely to reoffend.

Under the new reforms the rehabilitation periods (after which convictions no longer need to be declared) will be made up of the period of the sentence plus an additional specified period which, in most cases, has reduced the overall length of time for which a conviction has to be declared.  For example, as a result of the new reforms an offender sentenced for 6 months will have a rehabilitation period of 2.5 years (6 month sentence and a further 2 years disclosure period). Further, a sentence of 30 months to 4 years was previously ‘never spent’; now the rehabilitation period for such an offence will be 7 years (plus the amount of time served in prison).

Part of the old-regime which will stay the same is that of offenders who have spent more than 4 years in prison. Such convictions will never be ‘spent’ and individuals will have to disclose convictions of this length to any potential employers.

Below is a table comparing the ‘old’ and ‘new’ regime.

Custodial sentences: new rehabilitation periods

Sentence length Rehabilitation period prior to 10 March 2014 (applied from date of conviction)     Rehabilitation period with effect from 10 March 2014 (period of sentence plus the 'buffer' period below which applies after end of sentence)
0-6 months 7 years 2 years
6-30 months 10 years 4 years
30 months-4 years Never spent 7 years
Over 4 years Never spent Never spent

Non-custodial sentences: new rehabilitation periods

Sentence Rehabilitation period prior to 10 March 2014 (applied from date of conviction)       Buffer period with effect from 10 March 2014 (will apply from end of sentence)
Community Order (and Youth Rehabilitation Order) 5 years 1 year
Fine 5 years 1 year (from date of conviction)
Absolute discharge 6 months None
Conditional discharge, referral order, reparation order, action plan order, supervision order, bind-over order, hospital order) Various, mostly between 1 year and length of the order Period of the order

For further information or advice on these reforms, contact the employment team on 01228 552222.

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Published: Monday 28th April 2014
Categorised: Employment

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