Insight: How will the new Management of Offenders Act (Scotland) affect background screening processes?

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London 13th November 2020 – Changes to how job applicants in Scotland disclose prior convictions will come into force on 30 November.


The Managers of Offenders Act (Scotland) received Royal Assent on 30 July 2019, and part two of it will commence later this year with amends to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.


According to a press release from the Scottish Government, there will be no change to the process of background screening checks, but the results will differ due to a reduced length of time that many convictions need to be disclosed for. These amendments will be welcome news to more than a third of adult men in Scotland estimated to have a criminal record.


The disclosure periods for more serious convictions over four years will stay the same under the reforms. Rules for sensitive occupations such as medicine or teaching will also be unaffected.


Examples of the reductions in disclosure periods (from the date of conviction) for 12, 24, and 48-month custodial sentences, effective from November 30, are as follows:


  • 12 months will be reduced from 10 years to 3 years
  • 24 months will be reduced from 10 years to 6 years
  • 48 months will be reduced from always having to disclose to 10 years


For non-custodial sentences, the disclosure changes include:


  • For community payback orders, a reduction from 5 years to 12 months or the length of the order, whichever is longer
  • For fines, a reduction from 5 years to 12 months
  • An admonishment or absolute discharge will no longer need to be disclosed


Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf explains the reasoning behind the new legislation –


“These important reforms balance the requirement for safeguards to understand a person’s recent offending behaviour with the need to allow people to move on with their lives – to seek gainful employment, support their families and contribute positively to their communities.


If criminal record checks form part of your recruitment and background screening policies, it’s crucial you’re clear and transparent with Candidates on what they should, or should not, disclose. And also make sure they know your firm’s policy around the recruitment of ex-offenders.


The press release, technical guidance and summary of the changes can be found here on the Scottish Government website.


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