How to talk to your employer about your driving conviction

Behind every driving conviction there is a story. You might have been rushing to get to a job interview so you broke the speed limit, feeling stressed after arguing with your partner so you weren’t paying enough attention to the road, or made a bad choice after a few drinks.
We’re all human and make mistakes. However much you might regret the incident that led to a conviction, it could have a lasting impact on your life and your employment prospects. Let’s look at how you should approach telling an employer about your driving conviction and how convicted driver insurance can help you put your life back together.


Driving convictions in the UK

In the UK, over 11 million people have a criminal record. For men born in 1953 living in England and Wales, one in three have been convicted of an offence – although more than half of these only ever committed one offence and 85% of those were under the age of 30. In comparison, fewer than one in 10 women the same age have a criminal record.
There are around 735,000 people in the UK with unspent convictions. Until convictions are ‘spent’ on a criminal record, they can pose real challenges for individuals trying to find employment or arrange car convicted driver insurance.
In 2020, more than half a million (516,000) British motorists were prosecuted for motoring offences. This is lower than the average annual rate because of the impact of the pandemic – in 2019, there were 711,000 prosecutions. Just over half (53%) of prosecutions related to speeding or insurance offences. Only a very small proportion of offences involve death or injury.
A vast majority (94%) of motoring offences in 2020 were punished with a fine. The average fine is now £341. More than 60,000 drivers were disqualified in 2020, with a majority (58%) of these being disqualified for more than a year. Far more drivers (317,000) received penalty points on their licence without a disqualification.

What are the criminal penalties for a driving conviction?

Driving offences cover a wide range of levels of severity, from relatively minor matters such as not wearing a seatbelt, exceeding the speed limit a small amount or driving without an MOT, to major offences such as drink driving or dangerous driving.
Minor offences
The least serious offences are dealt with by fixed penalty notice (FPN), which is issued through the post. FPNs can impose fines of £50, £100, £200 or £300 and may also endorse your licence with penalty points, usually three.
If you pay an FPN within the specified time limit, the matter is considered closed and you will not have a criminal conviction. However, the penalty points will remain on your licence for either four or 11 years, depending on the offence.
Major offences
More serious offences include causing death by careless or dangerous driving, dangerous driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, aggravating features make an offence more serious and therefore carry a harsher penalty. For example, careless driving while under the influence of alcohol will carry a more severe penalty due than careless driving without the alcohol element.
Serious offences will usually require you to attend hearings in a magistrates’ court. Penalties for serious offences range from fines of £1,000 or more to, in the most serious cases, an unlimited fine, driving ban and up to 14 years in prison. Being found guilty of murder or manslaughter as a result of driving can result in a life time prison sentence.

How does a driving conviction impact you personally?

All driving convictions will cause you some expense and inconvenience, but the impact varies widely because driving offences cover such a wide area. If you are convicted of one of the more serious offences, for example drink driving or causing death through careless driving, the impact can be severe.
You might find that your family, friends and community find it hard to accept your conviction and sentence. This could cause friction and stress within the family. The financial toll of paying a fine, legal fees and coping with increased insurance costs can add to the strain. Thankfully, specialist convicted driver insurance can help with some of that.
The estimated cost of a drink-driving conviction is around £70,000, factoring in fines, legal fees, higher premium costs for convicted driver insurance, alternative transport costs and loss of earnings.
If you use a vehicle for work, a driving conviction can be devastating. You might have your vehicle impounded or destroyed, receive a driving disqualification or find convicted driver insurance hard to find. Even if you only have to be off the road for a relatively short period of time, this can do considerable harm to your business and income.
If your conviction results from a road collision, the recovery from this can also be difficult to manage. You might have physical injuries or develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being in a horrific situation and potentially seeing loved ones or other road users suffering. This can lead to anxiety, irritability, nervousness, depression and flashbacks. It can also make it much more difficult to drive or be a passenger in a car after this experience.
This kind of physical and psychological impact of a road traffic accident can impact your quality of life and ability to earn a living. Thankfully, with the right support you can get back on track. This might include help from your employer or advice on how to find a new job, support with stress and finding a provider of convicted driver insurance.

When are driving convictions spent?

A driving conviction generally does not stay on your record forever. The length of time for which convictions have to be declared varies. In 2019, the government changed the rules on disclosing some offences so it’s worth checking if this applies to you.
Penalty points on your licence remain for four to 11 years. Employers and insurers may be able to find out about your licence being endorsed during the first five years of an 11-year endorsement, or the first 30 months if you are aged under 18. They can discover you have penalty points at any time for a four-year endorsement.
If you are convicted of reckless or dangerous driving, or are disqualified from driving following a conviction, the endorsement stays on your licence for four years from the date of conviction. Most other convictions result in endorsements remaining on your licence for four years from the date of the offence.
For the most serious driving offences (drink driving, drug driving, causing death by dangerous driving while under influence of drink or drugs or causing death by dangerous driving, then failing to provide a specimen for analysis) endorsements stay on your licence for 11 years from the date of conviction.
When a licence is endorsed to show a conviction, this is reflected using codes to confirm the offence. For example, the different types of drink or drug driving offence use codes DR19, DR20, DR30, DR31, DR61 and DR80. You can check your licence information online, which will confirm if you have penalty points or disqualifications currently. This service also provides you with a code you can use to share the information with an employer.

Do you have to tell your employer about a driving conviction?

This depends on the offence and penalty. The court will not inform your employer of your conviction directly – this is your responsibility. Most jobs require you to inform them of any ‘unspent’ convictions and this will be in the terms and conditions within your contract. Failing to disclose the information could constitute gross misconduct.
Some employment contracts also state that employees must inform the employer if they are accused of an offence or charged, as opposed to having been convicted. It is important to know what the terms of your own contract state.
Disclosure will be especially important in roles where you are required to drive as part of the job, or work with vulnerable groups such as children, elderly people or disabled people.
If you are already in a job, you should check your contract and employee handbook carefully to see if you are required to inform your employer of a conviction. Depending on your situation and relationship with your employer, you might decide to disclose a conviction even if you are not technically obliged to do so. Many employers would appreciate the honesty and openness, plus failure to disclose could be interpreted as a breach of your bond of trust with the employer.
If you are applying for a job, there may be a box to tick on the application to confirm whether you have a criminal record, or the employer might request permission to carry out a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) screening check on you. You can refuse permission for the DBS check to be carried out, but this may mean you are not considered for the role.


Jobs requiring a full, clean driving licence

Some roles such as fleet driving require workers to have a full driving licence with no endorsements. Workers in these roles who receive penalty points on their licence or a driving conviction might be tempted to withhold this information from their employer.
Failure to tell an employer is a serious mistake. Many insurance policies require drivers to declare any driving licence points or convictions. If a driver does not meet the conditions set out in the policy wording, the insurance could be invalidated in the event of a claim.
Effectively, this means a driver with undeclared convictions or penalty points could be driving around with no insurance. This is a criminal offence in itself and in the event of a claim, the driver could be held personally liable for injuries and damage to other drivers and their cars, as well as having no insurance cover for their own injuries and loss.
This could result in fresh legal action which would be harder to recover from and you may need to seek out convicted driver insurance to get back on the road again.

What’s the best way to tell your employer about a driving conviction?

Telling your employer about a driving conviction can be daunting. There is no way of telling what your employer’s reaction will be, plus you may already be dealing with disruption, stress at home, financial worries and feelings of shame and regret.
However, many companies are willing to listen to the circumstances surrounding the conviction and want to give reliable workers a second chance. It helps if you approach the disclosure in the right way, thinking of the situation from your employer’s point of view. They will be asking themselves: is this employee trustworthy? Can they be relied on? Showing you have the right attitude towards your offending will help to reassure your employer that you should continue in your role.
The right way to approach your employer will depend on your relationship and the type of business you work for. Here are some tips that might be helpful:
  • Tell your employer as soon as possible – delaying might give the impression you were trying to hide the conviction.
  • Ask to have a confidential chat in a private place, where possible have the conversation face to face.
  • Do not try to joke or downplay the offence – this could make you look reckless and irresponsible.
  • Be confident about your willingness to continue doing your job and emphasise your skills, experience and motivation.
  • Spell out how you see yourself progressing within the company if you are given a second chance.
  • If there are any circumstances that are relevant to the offence, for example medication or stressful personal issues that affected your judgement, mention these and what has happened since the event to ensure it never happens again.
Driving offences are often picked up by the local press, especially if they involve factors such as drink or drug driving, multi-vehicle incidents or caused death or serious injury. It’s always best to tell your employer yourself rather than allow the local newspaper to do so. Negative publicity that is associated with the company can be particularly damaging.

Why is it any of your employer’s business?

It’s only human to be defensive about your driving conviction, particularly if you don’t see that it has any bearing on your working role. Where an offence happened outside of work and has been dealt with by the courts, why is it any of your employer’s business?
This attitude will not endear you to your employer; it could even result in you losing your job. If you remain calm and co-operative, expressing remorse for what has happened and setting out why you believe you are trustworthy as an employee, you are in a much better position.
Even where a driving job is involved, some employers might help you out by transferring you to a different role until your conviction is spent or the points removed from your licence. Many employers will be keen to give you the benefit of the doubt but a resistant, angry attitude from you might make them think twice.

What happens if you lose your job due to a driving conviction?

The hard truth is that some employers will either choose to fire you due to your conviction, or will have no choice in the matter, for example if you are a driver and the insurance policy requires you to have a clean licence. You may also find that a job offer is withdrawn when a prospective employer discovers that you have a driving conviction.
This could harm your prospects, for example if you work in the legal, medical or financial sector or other highly-regulated professions, a criminal conviction could end your career. If your job involves driving for a living and a clean driving licence is a requirement, you could also face a long period of being unable to work in that role.
Legally, if a driving conviction makes you unable to carry out your role then an employer is entitled to dismiss you. If driving has no bearing on your role and the offence is committed outside of work, employers sometimes try to argue that the bond of trust has broken down and dismiss a worker for this reason. Under the law, the employer needs to demonstrate that the offence is disruptive to the business, for example by damaging the reputation or harming relations with other employees.

Can employers take spent convictions into account?

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, it is against the law for an individual to be refused any job (although some exceptions apply, such as jobs in schools, medicine, social services, law or accountancy) purely on the basis of a spent conviction. Theoretically, you could bring a legal challenge if this happens to you, but in practice it can be very hard to prove that this is the reason why you were turned down.
Equally, employers should not subject you to detrimental treatment such as bullying, harassment or mistreatment due to a spent conviction or dismiss you for this reason. If this happens you should raise the issue with your manager or HR and consider making a formal complaint. Again, to take legal action you would need to be able to prove you had been treated unfairly due to the spent conviction – this would be likely to require documentary evidence.

Schemes that help you to return to employment

Driving convictions are penalised by the courts but sometimes it feels as if the punishment continues for years by impacting your ability to work and insure yourself as a driver. It can be demoralising and hard to get back on your feet, especially if you lose your job due to your conviction.
Fortunately, some employers recognise that people with convictions can turn things around and prove reliable and valuable members of staff. This applies even to people with convictions for more serious offences resulting in imprisonment.
Companies including Tesco, Pret a Manger, Co-op, Virgin, Timpson, Boots, Greggs and the National Grid have schemes to help people with convictions return to employment. If you’re finding it hard to get back into your former sector, you might consider taking a job with one of these firms and working your way back over the longer term. The charitable organisation Unlock is a great source of advice, information and support if you are struggling with the return to work.
There are also many schemes that help people with convictions to find the support they need to get back into work, including re-training where necessary. For example, the Apex Charitable Trust helps people in the North East of England find suitable work or training to break through barriers to employment. See a list of schemes here.

Getting insurance as a convicted driver

When you enter your personal information to obtain a car insurance quote, the insurer will look at a range of different details that build up a sense of your own personal risk profile. This includes things like how long you have been driving, where you live, what your job is, your age and the type of car you drive.
Having a driving conviction highlights you as a higher risk for insurers; if you have been found at fault in the past, the chances are you will have to make a claim in the future. Some offences such as drink driving or dangerous driving might suggest an individual has an underlying problem that makes reoffending more likely. This is why insurers charge much higher premiums for convicted driver insurance – or they may refuse to offer cover at all.

Finding your way back to normal driving

At Insurance Factory, we believe that people should be able to put a driving conviction behind them and get on with their lives and access reasonably priced convicted driver insurance.
We consider each case on its individual merits, covering people with convictions for offences such as driving without insurance, drink driving, motorway speeding, dangerous or reckless driving and non-motoring convictions.
If you need convicted driver insurance, why not get in touch for a free, no-obligation quote? We have over 20 years of experience and use a specialist panel of insurers to make sure we can offer flexibility and great service.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.