The step is the latest measure by the government and airports operator BAA to strengthen security at UK airports because of the perception of heightened terrorist risk.
Under the directive, contractors will be obliged to pay £13.60 per worker for a basic security disclosure certificate.
A BAA spokesperson said that the directive would come into effect for recruits on 1 July 2003. Existing staff with a permanent airside pass would have to provide the same security clearance document by July 2004.
The spokesperson said that workers with any unspent convictions would be disqualified from working at the airport. He added: "Workers with spent convictions would be allowed to work in restricted access areas of the airport at the discretion of the DoT."
BAA said it would be up to individual companies at airports to decide how they paid for the operation. However, the spokesperson said, BAA would pay the £13.60 cost for its own employees.
The spokesperson added: "We are working closely with contractors to facilitate implementation of this legislation and do not anticipate any major problems as a result."