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Can I work if I have a past conviction?

Find out more about your employment rights


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment


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You can certainly work if you have a past conviction. None of us want our past mistakes to limit what we can achieve in life. If you’re someone who’s had a criminal conviction, then odds are you won’t want that to define you forever. Remember that everyone benefits when people with past convictions are able to work and earn a living. There may be some challenges along the way, but knowing your rights and responsibilities as a person with a past conviction will be a big help in finding a job.

Working with a past conviction

If you have a past conviction, then you’ll normally need to be upfront about it (unless it’s considered “spent”). Potential employers have a legal right to know about any unspent convictions and can choose not to hire you based on them. Not disclosing convictions can have serious consequences if they’re found out later. 

There are also certain types of job you won’t be able to take with a conviction. Anything that requires you to have a PSV (public service vehicle) licence or a firearms licence won’t be possible. You also can’t enter certain professions such as law or medicine. It’s also possible that you will be denied insurance cover that may be necessary for some types of work.

Is my conviction spent or unspent?

You have to tell your potential employer about most convictions before they offer you a job. But there are some convictions that can become “spent” after seven years. You don’t have to disclose spent convictions when going for a job, unless it’s for one of the employers on this list.

All convictions you received in the District Court for either motoring offences (except dangerous driving) and minor public order offences can become spent. A single District Court conviction for dangerous driving can become spent so long as it’s your only one. And one single conviction (that is not a motoring or public order offence) tried in the District or Circuit Court can become spent if your sentence was either a fine, or 12 months or less in prison.

For your conviction to be considered spent, seven years will have had to have passed since it was handed down. You’ll have to have been at least 18 when you committed the offence in question and complied with whatever sentence the court gave you. Convictions for sexual offences or for any offence tried in the Central Criminal Court can’t become spent.

What if my conviction is from when I was under 18?

There are different rules if you were under 18 when you committed the offence for which you received a conviction. So long as you meet certain conditions, your conviction can be completely removed from your record. It will be as if it never happened and you won’t need to tell any potential employer about it. For your conviction to be removed, all of the following must be true:

  • Your case wasn’t tried by the Central Criminal Court
  • It has been at least three years since the day you were found guilty
  • You haven’t committed any other offences since then.

Working abroad with a spent or removed conviction

You should be aware that having your convictions removed or considered “spent” is only guaranteed to apply in Ireland. Different countries will have different rules about who can and cannot work, and some places will be far harsher on people with convictions looking for work. Australia and the USA in particular will require you to tell them about all your past convictions before you visit their countries. This includes spent convictions and possibly even those you committed when you were under 18 and since had removed from your record. Make sure to check the local laws before visiting or moving to another country with a conviction. 

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Published Sep­tem­ber 28th2016
Tags employment young offenders work rights
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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