I have a criminal record. How can I get a job?

You do the crime, you do the time but it does not necessarily need to affect your prospects for employment once you have paid your dues.

You’re back on the straight and narrow and you are in the hunt for that dream job offering. It is common to have a perception that disclosing a criminal record may impact the chance of scoring that job you really wanted. People often think they could be judged because of their history and not given a fair crack, therefore are reluctant to disclose information for this very reason.

Depending on the nature of the job you are looking for, you may not be legally required to disclose your criminal record, however in this sensitive area, an open process is usually the best way to approach the situation.

Following are some tips on requirements for disclosing information about your criminal record.

1. Relevance to essential requirements of the role
An employer does not need to ask for criminal record details if it has no relevance to the inherent requirements of the job. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, employers are encouraged to read Section 4 on assessing these requirements prior to asking for criminal record details.

If an employer raises personal questions that are irrelevant to the job, they may also run the risk of breaching privacy and anti-discrimination laws.

2. Legal requirements
In some cases, an employer will need to ask for criminal record details to ensure an applicant meets legal requirements for the role. In this instance, employers will seek consent for a police check. Section 5.5 from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), outlines this more in detail.

3. Legislative requirements
There may be requirements under legislation where you need to release details about a criminal record, such as working with children.

4. Role requirements
There are employers who will not take on an applicant who has chosen not to disclose details of their criminal record, not due to the actual nature of the criminal record, but because an essential part of the role is honesty. They may deem failure to provide details as being dishonest.

An employer should highlight why convictions are relevant to the role and that failure to disclose details could have a negative impact on employment. This helps to alleviate potential future problems for claims of discrimination as well.

Employers should make job applicants aware that a criminal record is relevant to the job when advertising for the role.

In summary
• Employers should only seek details of a criminal record if there is a definitive connection between the fundamental requirements of a certian job and a criminal record.
• Information asked must be in direct relevance to the duties that will be performed of a certain role, in a non-discriminatory manner.
• Police checks should only be conducted with written consent of the job applicant.
• A criminal record should not be an absolute block or binding decision for employment of a person.

The below graph, supplied by the AHRC, outlines what a job applicant with a criminal record could expect to come across when applying for a job. This takes into account the inherent requirements of the role.


If an employer has a fair and open process of exchanging details for criminal records from the start, the job applicant will be offered a fair opportunity for employment and cases of potential discrimination will be kept to a minimum.

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