The realities of hiring people with convictions

Hiring people with previous criminal convictions can be beneficial to businesses, ex-offenders and society as a whole, according to a new guide from Working Chance, as Ron Alalouff reports.

Hiring with Conviction – an employers’ guide to recruiting and supporting people with convictions from Working Chance, the employment charity for women with convictions, is split into five main themes:

  • Why recruit people with convictions?
  • How to recruit people with convictions
  • Dealing with disclosure of a criminal record
  • Criminal records and the law
  • Induction and support for new recruits

Why recruit people with convictions?

In England and Wales, there are around 12.3 million people with a criminal record – over a quarter of the working population – according to the guide. It says many people with convictions have committed relatively minor offences, such as low-level shop theft or traffic violations.

The number of employers who see advantages in hiring someone with a conviction has doubled in the last seven years (24% in 2023, compared to 12% in 2016). They say the top three potential advantages of doing so are:

  • People with convictions provide different perspectives
  • Recruiting from this pool helps to tackle skills and labour shortages
  • An organisation’s diversity and inclusion record is improved

Hiring with Conviction states there is a business case for hiring those with criminal records. “Hiring people with convictions isn’t just about ‘doing good’ and giving people a chance; it makes sense from a business point of view too… 86% of employers of people with convictions rate them as good at their job.”

The government has also recognised the importance of creating job opportunities for people with convictions with the following initiatives:

  • Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (due to come into effect by the end of 2023), which reduce the length of time that people need to disclose their sentences
  • Creating the New Futures Network to broker partnerships between prisons and employers
  • Going Forward into Employment, a scheme which provides work placements across the civil service
  • Using the Public Service (Social Value) Act 2012 to increase the provision of training and employment opportunities for people with convictions by organisations bidding for certain government contracts

Social value case for recruiting people with a criminal record


The guide says hiring people with convictions means more people are in employment and less likely to require state benefits. It reduces the cycle of poverty and crime that blights families and communities, and it reduces reoffending – which means society is safer and stronger.

Hiring people with convictions can also contribute to an organisation’s corporate social responsibility objectives. According to Social Value Portal, a company could create £24,269 in social value by hiring just one person with a conviction.

Hiring people with convictions can also enhance an organisation’s reputation as being socially responsible: 92% of employers say diverse recruitment has enhanced their reputation, helping then win contracts and awards; 81% of people think businesses employing people with convictions are making a positive contribution to society; and three out of four people would be comfortable buying from a business that employs people with convictions.

Legal duties of hiring people with convictions

There is no legal requirement for employers to ask candidates to declare a criminal record for the majority of roles. Employers may not consider criminal records relevant to working within their business, or recognise that it can be an unhelpful barrier that prevents many suitable candidates from applying. Others choose to collect this sort of information from the outset of the recruitment process, but there is no objective justification for doing so. Asking from the outset can also risk indirect discrimination, because some groups are disproportionately likely to have a conviction or caution.

Hiring with Conviction says that if a suitable candidate has a criminal record, it’s not automatically a reason to exclude them. A candidate’s criminal record is often irrelevant to the role applied for. Candidates should be considered on a case-by -case basis, and whether they can do the job and be an asset to the organisation. It there are any concerns, the employer should conduct a risk assessment, giving the candidate a meaningful opportunity to address them.

Support and mentoring

The guide also provides advice on support and mentoring for new recruits with criminal records, and then sets out the answers to some frequently asked questions. It concludes by providing a set of appendices covering documents such as: a sample recruitment policy for people with convictions; a list of important Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) considerations; a sample ROTL procedure; a copy of paid ROTL Memorandum of Understanding; self-disclosure rules; and a new employee induction checklist.

Commenting on the publication of Hiring with Conviction, the National Business Crime Centre said:

“This is the go-to guide for hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters and presents compelling reasons why employers should be pro-actively hiring people with convictions, and outlines practical strategies to ensure equitable and risk-managed recruitment practices.

“It explores how many people with convictions have committed relatively minor offences such as low-level shoplifting, or traffic violations. Their conviction(s) may have been decades ago or very recent, but it can significantly hinder their ability to secure a job.”


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