Back in 2011, I was arrested and charged. As a result of this, I lost my job and fell into deep despair. Anxiety issues followed and ultimately depression took hold. I was lucky that I still had my close friends and family for support but I struggled with guilt and couldn’t really cope.
Two years later, my case went to court and I was sentenced to a prison sentence and served three months inside. Prison is a depressing and demoralising place yet somehow I managed to get through my sentence.
On release, I decided to move away from the area I’d lived in pre-prison and started searching for work. I decided that I could do with building up my self-confidence and I needed something to get me out of the house, so I thought about volunteering whilst I looked for paid work. I applied to a well-known charity and with some trepidation, disclosed my conviction to the manager at the end of the interview. She totally empathised with my plight, offered me a role there and then and I started volunteering pretty much straight away.
I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering, I felt that not only was I making a real difference to the lives of the people I was supporting but I was helping myself as well. Volunteering gave me a sense of fulfilment and self-worth. However, I wanted more for myself, not least financial security and so, all the time I was volunteering I continued to apply for as many paid jobs as I was able to.
Eventually, I was offered a job interview for a receptionist position in a large hotel. I was really excited but also incredibly nervous. I’d been out of work for a long time and now had the added complication of having a criminal record. The interview was going well and I took the opportunity to disclose my conviction to the interviewer. I’d always hated this part of any interview but I knew it had to be done and for me, it was better to do it sooner rather than later. Another two interviews followed with different members of the hotel management team where I was asked for more information about my conviction. Although they weren’t very comfortable discussions, I took the view that if it helped management get to know me better and have an understanding of my conviction and how it came about, then it might improve my chances of getting the job.
When I received the telephone call telling me that I’d been successful, it felt as though an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I really appreciated the fact that the hotel had given me this ‘second chance’ and I thanked the hotel manager personally for his faith in me.
Fifteen months passed and, as a result of my hard work and willingness to go over and above what was expected of me, I’d become a well-respected and valued member of the team. My criminal record was never spoken about or referred to.
Then out of the blue, I turned up for work one night and was asked to go and see the new Operations Manager and the Assistant Operations Manager. Immediately I walked into the office I was handed a letter and told that I was being suspended until further notice as ‘the hotel had been made aware of my criminal record which I’d lied about to gain employment’. I couldn’t believe what was happening and I tried to explain that I’d made a full disclosure at my initial interview and had also had follow-up discussions where I’d provided additional information. I made my way home totally distraught.
As the hotel undertook its investigation into the matter I was invited to three separate meetings where I was provided with copies of written statements which had been given by other managers at the hotel and colleagues. The basis of the disciplinary seemed to be that:-
- I hadn’t disclosed my conviction prior to accepting the receptionist job (when asked, the previous Operations Manager who I’d disclosed to refuted my claim that I’d disclosed);
- I had supplied the hotel with a reference from a previous employer who they believed to be a friend (in actual fact I’d provided the hotel with two different references and although one of my referees had become a friend, I’d also worked for them).
I assisted the hotel fully with the investigation and discovered that my original disclosure had never been documented by the hotel’s HR department. As far as I was concerned, I’d disclosed verbally and it never dawned on me that I should put something in writing. So, even though the hotel couldn’t prove that I hadn’t disclosed, I couldn’t prove that I had.
The outcome was inevitable I suppose – I was dismissed, and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t even take the case to an employment tribunal as I’d been employed for less than 2 years.
Six months on, I’m back volunteering, applying for between 10 and 20 jobs a week. I now have another problem to deal with, answering the question ‘have you ever been dismissed?’. It’s so disheartening and it can be difficult to stay positive but I’m just about managing to keep my head above water and staying strong.
I’ve learnt a lot from this experience and I’m sure that many employer’s and anybody else reading this could learn something too, namely:
- The person with the conviction isn’t necessarily the one that’s dishonest
- Whatever you disclose verbally, make sure you back it up in writing – you never know when you might need it.
By Bradley (name changed to protect identity)
- Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
- Information – We have practical self-help information on disclosing to employers. We’ve also published an advice post which sets out how to answer questions about dismissal, especially if your conviction is spent
- Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to this issue on our online forum
- Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on supporting and challenging employers in how they treat people with convictions.