Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Do I have to declare my criminal record

This advice applies to Scotland

On this page you can check the rules about when you have to declare your criminal records and which checks can be made by an employer. You can also find out about the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme which is a special scheme for people who work or volunteer with children or vulnerable adults. 

Do I have to declare my criminal record

Past convictions and getting a job

Before you're offered a job an employer is legally entitled to ask about convictions you've had. An employer can only get limited information about your criminal record unless the work you are going to do is in an occupation when the employer has to make sure you are a 'safe' person to offer the job to, for example, if you are a teacher or doctor.

Spent and unspent convictions on your criminal record

When you have a criminal record you may have 'spent' and 'unspent' convictions or cautions. You have to let a certain amount of time pass, called a 'rehabilitation period', before your conviction becomes 'spent'. The time period is set out in law and until that time passes your conviction is 'unspent'. 

You don't have to tell a new employer about a conviction if it is 'spent'. You might choose to, but you don’t have to unless you are in one of the excluded or excepted occupations, for which spent convictions have to be declared (for example a medical doctor).

Some criminal records can never become 'spent' because the conviction is thought to be very serious and one that a prospective employer should always be able to find out about if it is relevant to the work being offered to you.

A declaration about a criminal record is called a 'disclosure'.

If you don't declare (disclose) an 'unspent' conviction, a job offer could be withdrawn or an employer may take steps to dismiss you if you've already started. 

More information about dismissal

Disclosure checks you or an employer can apply for

Disclosure Scotland provides three different types of disclosure for work or volunteering:

  • a basic disclosure can be used for any purpose. It provides a statement about any unspent convictions against your name
  • a standard disclosure can be used to assess your suitability for a job because it provides a list of all unspent convictions against your name and some spent convictions
  • an enhanced disclosure contains all unspent convictions, some spent convictions and any other non-conviction information considered to be relevant by the police or other Government bodies. This can be applied for if you'd be working or volunteering with children or adults. In some jobs working with children or adults you may have to be in the PVG Scheme because Disclosure Scotland can then monitor any new criminal record that you get.

More information about types of disclosure and what happens if want to apply for a job in England or Wales can be found on the Scottish Government website.

If you need further help about problems with a disclosure check, you could speak to an experienced adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau – where to get advice.

Working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults

If you're applying to work or volunteer with children or young people (under 18 years) and/or vulnerable adults, your employer is legally required to make background checks to find about your criminal record if you have one. 

A disclosure check is likely to be needed as a minimum, but you may also have to join the PVG Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme

The PVG scheme is for people who undertake what is called 'regulated' work.

Regulated work with children often involves you having responsibility for a child unsupervised by anyone else who has responsibility for the child.

Regulated work with adults often takes place where care is provided on a one-to-one basis. If you're not sure if the work will be 'regulated', you should ask your employer or the organisation you volunteer for.

Background checks under the PVG scheme will be part of the assessment of your suitability when applying for a job or volunteering opportunity.

An application to join the PVG scheme is often made by you through the employer or voluntary organisation. There is more information about the PVG scheme and how to apply on the Scottish Government website.

How much will it cost to join the PVG scheme

It is up to an employer (irrespective of whether in the private or public sector) to decide if they pay the fees for staff who have to be part of the PVG scheme. Many organisations will pay the fees for their volunteers.

How long does it take to become a member of the PVG scheme

If you have no criminal convictions that would prevent you from joining the PVG scheme, you should receive your PVG certificate within a few weeks. If you have not heard further after a few weeks, you should contact Disclosure Scotland directly.

If you're refused membership of the PVG scheme

When Disclosure Scotland checks your criminal records and you have a conviction (whether 'spent' or not) which bars you from 'regulated' work, you won't be allowed to join the PVG scheme.

The organisation or employer will then be written to stating you cannot be a member of the PVG scheme. They should not be given the reason why because this would breach your confidentiality.

For more information about disputing Disclosure Scotland decisions, visit mygov.scot.

If you need help challenging a PVG scheme decision, you could speak to an experienced adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau – where to get advice.

If you are self-employed

If you're self-employed and involved in 'regulated' work – for example individual music tuition to children, or providing one-to-one care in someone’s home – it may be in your interests to become a PVG scheme member. This way people who give you work will know that your criminal records have been checked.

You can choose not to join the PVG scheme.

The appendix below gives examples of things to consider when deciding if your work is regulated. If you want to be sure, you should always contact Disclosure Scotland.

Continuous checking of PVG scheme members

Once you're a member of the PVG Scheme, if you commit an offence that brings into question your suitability to work with a child or protected adult, Disclosure Scotland will be notified immediately. 

Depending on the type of offence committed, Disclosure Scotland might place you under consideration for being barred from working with either children or protected adults, or both. Conviction of serious offences like murder or rape result in being immediately barred.

Contact Disclosure Scotland

Disclosure Scotland
Tel: 03000 2000 40 (Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm, Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm)
Email: info@disclosurescotland.gsi.gov.uk 
Website: www.disclosurescotland.co.uk

Find out more about call charges

Further information

The following organisations provide more information about disclosures and the PVG scheme:

  • mygov.scot holds all the relevant information for Disclosure Scotland, including the different types of checks and the PVG scheme
  • Volunteer Scotland has information about disclosure and the PVG scheme in voluntary settings 

Appendix about self-employment

Self-employment or volunteering and the PVG scheme

You might have questions about whether certain voluntary roles or self-employed occupations require membership of the PVG scheme. You can contact Disclosure Scotland to check if you need to be part of the PVG scheme. The nature of what is regulated work is not always easily defined. We have provided some guidance below, but you should always check with Disclosure Scotland in any instance.

Below are examples of self-employment or volunteering, explaining where PVG scheme membership may or may not be required.

Type of activityRegulated work and the PVG scheme
Taxi driver – normally regular school runs Anyone who regularly transports children without other adults or transports vulnerable adults could be doing regulated work. At a minimum the employer should seek a disclosure check. If the taxi driver is self-employed, it's up to them to decide whether or not they should join the PVG scheme.
Childminder Childminders must register with the Care Inspectorate and have a PVG check.
School and nursery teachers Most teachers have to be PVG scheme members.
Self-employed tutors or teachers of children Teachers and tutors of this category can choose to be a PVG member.
Children's group leaders, for example, the Girl Guides, Scouts and Boy’s Brigade, church creche As long as there's an opportunity for the paid adult leaders or volunteers to have one-to-one unsupervised contact with someone under 18, both the staff and the volunteers should have had disclosure checks. This might include being a PVG member.
Sports coach volunteer Sports coaching is a difficult area to explain in terms of the PVG scheme. If someone is coaching children by arrangement with the parents of a child or group of children this is not regulated work.
Dentist Dentists must belong to the PVG scheme.
Medical doctor Doctors must normally be PVG members in the NHS, but may not be required to belong to the PVG scheme if there's no opportunity for one-to-one consultations involving personal examinations.
Window cleaner A window cleaner may have to be a PVG member if windows inside a building which accommodates vulnerable people gives the cleaner time alone with a protected adult or child.
Masseur or physiotherapist Someone working with vulnerable adults or people under 18 must be a PVG scheme member.
Lifeguard in a swimming pool Most life guards in public pools will not need to be PVG members because this isn't considered regulated work. If a life guard works in a private agency and provides one-to-one swimming tuition, it's likely that they'll need to belong to the scheme.
Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?
Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.