Employers can’t turn someone down for a job because they’ve been convicted of an offence if the conviction or caution is ‘spent’ - unless an exception applies.

Job applicants don’t need to tell potential employers about spent convictions or cautions.

What counts as a spent conviction

Convictions with a sentence of 4 years or less will become spent after a certain period of time. This is known as a ‘rehabilitation period’. Its length depends on how severe the penalty was.

Rehabilitation periods for England and Wales

Custodial sentence Rehabilitation period (from end of sentence)
0 - 6 months 2 years
6 - 30 months 4 years
30 months - 4 years 7 years
more than 4 years never
Non-custodial sentence Rehabilitation period (from end of sentence)
community order 1 year
fine 1 year (from date of conviction)
absolute discharge none

The rehabilitation period is halved if you were under 18 when convicted (except for sentences of up to 6 months where it’s the sentence period plus 18 months).

There are different rehabilitation periods in Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Simple cautions become spent immediately. Conditional cautions become spent after 3 months.


If the job requires a criminal record check, and this shows that someone’s not suitable for a job because of a spent conviction or caution, the employer can withdraw a job offer. The employer should tell the applicant that an exception applies.

Criminal record checks are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which used to be the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). CRB checks are now called DBS checks.

It’s against the law to refuse someone a job because they’ve got a spent conviction or caution, unless it’s because a DBS check shows that they’re unsuitable.