Usually a job applicant has no legal obligation to reveal spent convictions. If an applicant has a conviction that has become spent, the employer must treat the applicant as if the conviction has not happened. A refusal to employ a rehabilitated person on the grounds of a spent conviction is unlawful under the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.
However, there are certain areas of employment (for example some professional occupations or working closely with children or adults in vulnerable situations) that are exempt from this legislation and for which employers may ask about spent convictions. This is known as asking an exempted question, which when answering, the applicant would have a legal obligation to reveal spent convictions.
Applicants must be over 16 years of age to apply for a standard or enhanced check. The only exceptions to this are for enhanced checks where the applicant is looking after children in their own home, eg child-minding, fostering or adopting. In these circumstances, members of the applicant’s family over 10 years of age can apply for a check.
What checks are available?
- Basic AccessNI check - contains details of all convictions considered to be unspent, or states that no such convictions were found.
- Standard AccessNI check - contains details of all spent and unspent convictions and relevant cautions, diversionary youth conferences and informed warnings (non-court disposals) or states that no information was found.
- Enhanced AccessNI check - this has the same criminal record information as the Standard check but also includes a check of police intelligence records, and for positions working with children and vulnerable adults (referred to as Regulated Activity) may include information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
Read more on employing someone with a criminal record.
AccessNI: filtered checks
A filtered check means the applicant has a criminal record, but information about minor or old conviction(s) or cautions etc is not disclosed. An employer cannot ask an applicant to disclose information that has been filtered in this way.
Serious crimes will always be disclosed in a check, such as violence, sexual offences or information relevant to safeguarding and child protection.
Which AccessNI check should my employees apply for?
- The Basic check is available to anyone. It is open to any employer to seek a basic check or to require the employee to obtain a basic check as part of a successful recruitment application. Some employers will insist that a basic check is obtained, for example the civil service or where a contractor is working for the government. Those working on the 'airside' of an airport must have a basic check under Department of Transport Regulations. Taxi firm proprietors and bus operators require a basic check under Driver and Vehicle Agency (NI) regulations.
- The Standard check is available for certain specified occupations, licences and entry into certain specified professions. A standard check would be required if applying for a licence with the Security Industry Authority (SIA). SIA arrange this as part of applying for licence with them. You should not seek a standard or any other check directly from AccessNI as part of your application for a licence.
- The Enhanced check will be sought for those working closely with children or vulnerable adults (known as Regulated Activity). This will include a check of the DBS barred lists (those not permitted to work with children and vulnerable adults). The enhanced check is also available for other specific positions, but without a check of the barred lists, including those working with vulnerable people (but not in Regulated Activity), taxi driving licences, those seeking to retain a licence under regulation 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (NI) 2002, or judicial appointments.
The definition of Regulated Activity changed substantially on 10 September 2012. Central Government has published guidance to help employers better understand the impact of these changes. Safeguarding vulnerable groups: Disclosure & Barring Service.
How long is an AccessNI check valid for?
There is no official expiry date for an AccessNI check. Any information revealed on a certificate reflects information held on criminal records and by police at the time the check was issued. In certain employment sectors an AccessNI check may be required periodically.
You may be required by law to carry out a fresh check of the DBS Childrens' and/or Adults' list in accordance with sector-specific guidance.
Where you need to see a copy of the applicant's certificate before taking a recruitment decision, you should only retain this until such times as you make that decision. After this you should return it to the applicant. If it is considered necessary to keep the certificate information for longer, you should consult AccessNI.
AccessNI has a privacy notice that outlines its legal grounds for processing the personal data of applicants and signatories, details of the personal information collected, the purposes for which this is collected and how this is used by AccessNI.