Despite ticking the ‘Yes’ box which asked about convictions on an application form, Silvester wasn’t asked about them at interview and so did not disclose. Although he’d done nothing wrong, he was still dismissed when his criminal record came to light.
I’ve been out of prison for 18 months and still have another 2.5 years to go on licence.
In the past 18 months I’ve applied for over 700 jobs, getting to interview stage on only 6 of the applications, only to be rejected when I disclose my conviction (I was convicted of historical abuse claims dating back 39 years).
I recently applied for a job with an international company and disclosed my conviction during the online application process by ticking the ‘Yes’ box. I was invited to an interview and during this interview my disclosure wasn’t mentioned by the person conducting it. As I understand it, if the interviewer doesn’t raise the subject of criminal convictions you are not legally obliged to disclose. I assumed that as head office were aware then I didn’t have to do any more.
You can imagine my joy when a couple of hours later I was offered the job. I eagerly accepted after double checking with my probation officer and police offender manager that it was OK for me to accept. There were no concerns from either so I was looking forward to my start date which duly arrived.
I had to undertake 18 hours of online learning, covering health and safety, manual handling etc. There was a test after each module which you had to pass before moving on to the next one. This was carried out at home in my own time and I passed all the tests with an average pass mark of 98%.
I had been working for the company for nearly 4 weeks when my manager called me in to his office one day. He asked me if it was true that I had a criminal record. I replied that it was correct. He then asked why I hadn’t disclosed at interview and I told him that as he’d not asked me directly I didn’t have to disclose to him about the conviction. He asked me to go back to work only for him to call me back to the office a couple of hours later to inform me that after speaking to head office he would be suspending me on full pay pending further investigation. I informed him that head office were fully aware of my conviction and that I had not tried to hide anything.
A couple of days later I received an email from the HR department asking for my court papers and a copy of my licence conditions. I spoke to my probation officer, police offender manager and Unlock and they all told me that I should not give my employers this information – it wasn’t necessary or legally acceptable to ask. I contacted my manager and told him that my probation officer and police offender manager would be happy to speak to head office to confirm that they had no issues or concerns with my working at the company and they would confirm my conviction without disclosing any other information.
I passed on their contact details to head office and respectfully informed them that after seeking advice I was unable to supply them with the papers they had requested.
I was suspended for 3 weeks and finally received a text message from my manager asking me to attend a “meeting” the following week. I replied that it would be fine.
The day of the meeting arrived and I was feeling quite confident knowing that I had done nothing wrong. I arrived early and the manager came out on to the shop floor and asked me through to his office. I was greeted by a more senior manager from another store who told me that they would be conducting the meeting. My own manager would be taking notes of the conversation that would follow. It soon became clear that I was to be dismissed immediately on the ground of
Concerns for my safety and that of my fellow colleagues on the shop floor and to protect the company image”. In my humble opinion it is the latter statement that was the reason for my dismissal.”
It appears that someone who knew me had come in the store and had seen me while I was working and had telephoned head office to ask if they knew they had employed a sex offender. I was taken aback a little and again I was asked by the senior manager why I had not disclosed my conviction at the interview and again I explained that because the subject wasn’t raised I was not obliged to disclose. In all fairness to my manager, he did say at this stage that he was partly at fault for not asking the question about my conviction at the interview stage. He had a couple of hundred applications to go through in a short space of time and he had simply overlooked this question. I then emphasised the fact that I had not tried to hide my conviction and that head office had been made aware of it during the application process. The senior manager stated that:
Head office don’t always look closely at the application forms and my conviction had obviously gone unnoticed.”
It then transpired that the company had not approached either probation or the police for their input, they had made up their own minds that I was not suitable for the role.
I asked them what was the point of an online application form if no one looked at them and why no contact was made with probation or the police. The senior manager said they couldn’t explain that to me because they didn’t have the answer. I asked if I could appeal the decision to dismiss me and the answer was a very swift “No”. The meeting concluded and I was escorted off the premises.
To say I felt gutted is an understatement. I really thought that at last someone was willing to give me a chance to prove that I could be an asset to them. How wrong I was.
By Silvester (name changed to protect identity)
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