After working for a company for 25 years, Ian was distraught to learn that following changes to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Code of Conduct, he would have to disclose his 31 year old criminal record.
Until August of this year I was employed in the accounts department of a large law firm being responsible for several European offices. My employment began in the early 1990’s and without being too boastful, I had an exemplary work record.
However, my life prior to this was very different. In my early 20’s I was arrested for armed robbery and in 1988 received a prison sentence of 7.5 years. Like many people with convictions, finding a suitable career upon release was not easy but I was determined to put that life behind me and I never gave up searching for a career rather than just a job.
I managed to find a succession of jobs but nothing that had any long term prospects. However, despite a series of setbacks, I wouldn’t let anything stop me and I persisted with my search. In 1994 I secured a position in the accounts department of a law firm as an accounts assistant. Few companies asked about criminal records at that time and my employer was no different.
Over the years I progressed internally becoming assistant manager and then after 11 years I took the lead on a newly created role as billing coordinator. The past 14 years have seen me build on this and four years ago I became manager.
My life outside of the ‘office’ also grew. I met my wife in 1993 and we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary this year with our two sons. We settled into an average, suburban life, something I never thought I would be able to enjoy.
After almost 25 years working for this company and building a new life with my wife and sons, I now find myself in a very difficult situation where I have become unemployed again. I had hoped that I would stay with the company until retirement but unfortunately a situation arose that has resulted in my employment being terminated.
Due to my employers desire to not only comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) but also with current and prospective client engagement letters, my company decided to carry out retrospective background checks on all employees. Before the check was even started I took the decision to disclose my conviction to one of the managing partners, who decided to raise it with both the SRA and an outside employment law specialist. Neither the SRA nor the legal advisors were able to offer any concrete guidance around whether my conviction prevented me from working in my finance role. Two months ago the SRA made the decision that my role was not eligible for this type of SRA approval and that I didn’t need to go through the process again in any future job.
The advice my employers received was discussed amongst a small number of the partners and, despite a faultless employment history and the fact that I’d worked for the company for approximately 25 years, the decision was made to terminate my employment.
I’m still in total shock over what’s happened and how I’ve been treated. The people that made the decision to terminate my employment were people I’d known for 25 years; I didn’t just think of them as my employers but also as friends. I was obviously nervous about disclosing my conviction to them and I knew that they’d probably be shocked but I didn’t think that it would result in my dismissal. I honestly thought that they’d use my 25 years of work experience to make a decision rather than something that happened 31 years ago to a very different person.
By Ian (name changed to protect identity)
Comment from Unlock
It’s extremely disappointing to hear that Ian’s employer’s took the decision to dismiss him, especially as the SRA have confirmed that his role was not covered by the SRA Standards and Regulations. However, it does evidence how once employers have seen details of somebody’s criminal record they can sometimes find it difficult not to act on it. It’s one of the reasons why we continue to campaign for changes to the current criminal record disclosure regime.
Ian has now accepted a settlement from his previous employers and is currently seeking a new role in a similar field.