There have been calls for equality legislation to be broadened to allow people with criminal convictions to be reintegrated into society.

It comes from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) as the Government reviews the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures Act) 2016.

The main purpose of the Act is to assist with the rehabilitation of offenders who often experience difficulties securing employment as a result of having a conviction.

The Act provides a regime under which certain convictions can be disregarded after a number of years have elapsed since they were imposed.

IHREC and IPRT say the current scheme is exclusionary and changes are required.

IHREC said a criminal conviction can impact someone's life even decades later when accessing employment, housing, education, and services like insurance.

It has cited examples of people who have contacted its information services, including a person whose job offer was withdrawn after a vetting procedure revealed an offence that had been carried out in another jurisdiction 20 years previously.

Another individual reported that after securing private rental accommodation the offer was withdrawn due to a family member having past criminal convictions.

The person with the past convictions was not a prospective tenant.

Another person reported that his college was preventing him from finishing his degree because of previous convictions.

He had more than 100 convictions for crimes including burglary and larceny which he said were due to drug addiction.

The individual reported that the college would not allow him to finish his degree as a result.

IHREC said there needs to be a correct balance between the rehabilitation and reintegration of convicted persons and the broader societal interest of public safety and prevention of crime.

It said that reform of the 2016 Act should include amendments to the equality legislation, including a broad prohibition of discrimination on the ground of criminal conviction.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust has also published recommendations.

It said young offenders, people who are sentenced to prison for less than four years, and people with convictions who have demonstrated law abiding behaviour should all be given the opportunity to restart their lives.

IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said trauma, loss of a job, homelessness, and addiction are just some of the pressure points which can lead to offending and a criminal conviction.

"Having a criminal record in Ireland, even for a less serious offence, can amount to a disproportionate lifelong punishment," she said.

"By offering the opportunity to make a fresh start by not having to disclose minor old convictions, we can help people turn their lives around and enhance public safety. This is particularly important for young people," she added.

Ms Ní Chinnéide said proposals from IRPT strike the right balance of justice for past offending, the opportunity for rehabilitation, and legal protections "so that long forgotten crimes do not continue to haunt a person for the rest of their life".