A recent law has closed a loop hole that allowed employers to discriminate against job applicants with minor convictions.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, any individual who served a single sentence of up to four years without reoffending on release is not required to reveal their criminal record to potential employers. However, many employers circumvented this law by making it mandatory for those applying for a job to make a personal request for their own information under the Data Protection Act and submit it as part of the application process.

This has now been made illegal with Section 56 of the Data Protection Act, with employers facing a fine of £5,000 in the magistrates court if they ignore it, along with a potentially unlimited fine in a crown court case. The amendment states:

A person must not, in connection with—

(a)the recruitment of another person as an employee,

(b)the continued employment of another person, or

(c)any contract for the provision of services to him by another person,

require that other person or a third party to supply him with a relevant record or to produce a relevant record to him.

Section 56 came into effect on 10th March 2015. It does not, however, prevent any requests for information that are supported by the law or judged to be justified in the public interest.

The justice minister, Simon Hughes, spoke about the importance of the new law in regard to the rehabilitation of those who had broken the law:

It is vital that people with a conviction should be given every opportunity to reintegrate into society after serving their sentence and putting their offending behaviour behind them. For too long some people who may have had a minor conviction many years before face an unfair struggle to get a job and rebuild their lives. Finding a job can be a crucial step in the rehabilitation process. This change will help make sure ex-offenders are given a level playing field when they apply for work.

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