Job Prospects

Added 17th December 2020

Job Prospects for Those with a Criminal Record: What Does the Future Hold?

Having a criminal record is always a source of tension for those looking to find work, but what are your job prospects if you have a record? Find out here…

When you apply for a job, you want to show yourself to be a better candidate than every other person going for the same position. That said, this can be tricky when you have to disclose your criminal record from the get-go.

Employers are becoming more conscious of hiring people with a criminal record. Legally, they’re not allowed to discriminate against you for spent convictions. So, even if you’ve sought legal aid criminal defence solicitors to help you through it, you’re entitled to getting a job, just like anyone else.

That said, you may be wondering what employers can get from a criminal record check, and whether an employer will even ask you for one. You may also be wondering what the job prospects are like for people with a criminal record. In this article, we’ll be taking you through all this and more, so don’t go anywhere…

What Can an Employer Get From a Criminal Record Check?

In order to find out that you have a criminal conviction, a potential employer has to order a criminal record check, or you can order one yourself. It doesn’t matter what role you apply for; the employer can commission one of these checks, known in the UK as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

There are different levels to these criminal record checks. Usually employers only require a basic check, but for certain types of roles the employer will order a more detailed DBS check. The levels of DBS check are:

·        Basic check: shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions.

·        Standard check: shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.

·        Enhanced check: shows the same as a standard check, plus any additional information the local police have that’s considered relevant to the role.

·        Enhanced check with barred lists: shows the same as an enhanced check, plus whether you’re on the list of people barred from doing the role.

Spent convictions are convictions that have reached a set period and are removed from your criminal record. Unspent convictions are ones that haven’t reached this date yet.

Conditional cautions are issued if you admit to the offence and accept the conditions. As long as you meet the conditions, these will become spent after three months. Reprimands and warnings become spent almost instantly.

Essentially, with the basic criminal record check that most employers require, only active convictions and cautions will be shown. A standard check will show past convictions and cautions, but your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you for these (unless it’s for a specific role that your past offences bar you from).

Do All Employers Ask for a Criminal Record Check?

Now that we have an idea of what criminal record checks show a potential employer, it’s time to look at how many employers actually ask for one.


These days it’s becoming pretty standard practice for an employer to ask for a basic DBS check. The chances of them ordering one higher than that are much slimmer and, in those cases, the results are returned to the candidate, not the employer.

One thing to bear in mind is that just because an employer asks you to do one doesn’t mean you have to. It’s a completely voluntary act, in most cases, but there are some roles where a criminal record check is required by law.

If the job you’re applying for involves working with children or vulnerable adults, you’ll have to undergo a standard or enhanced test to make sure you don’t have any past convictions that prevent you from working with them. These job prospects include:

·         Teachers

·         Social workers

·         Carers

·         Foster carers

·         Childminders

·         Medical professionals

·         Counsellors

·         Individuals who transport adults to places for health or social care

·         Individuals who offer immigration services or advice

Jobs in some highly responsible professions, such as law, finance and security, put candidates in a position of trust. So, these also require a standard or enhanced criminal record check. These job prospects include:

·         Senior roles in banking or finance

·         Law enforcement roles, including the police and judiciary

·         The army, navy and air force

·         National security work

·         Certain roles in healthcare, pharmacy and the law

·         Certain roles in the prison service

·         Private security work

Even if your job doesn’t require a standard DBS check or higher, it’s probably a good idea to just be open with your employer.

They’re not allowed to discriminate against you for past convictions. If you can talk to the employer openly about your criminal record and reassure them that you’ve moved on, you can easily earn their trust.

What Are my Job Prospects as Someone with a Criminal Record?

Job prospects for people with criminal records aren’t as dire as they used to be. There has been more focus in recent years on hiring ex-offenders to give them a second chance.



Companies Who Hire Ex-Offenders

Some companies actually go out of their way to recruit ex-offenders, including Richard Branson. He once said that ‘some of the best entrepreneurs are sitting in prisons’, so actively employs lots of ex-offenders.

Another one is Bernard Matthews, who works with HMP Norwich to fill vacancies in their turkey processing plant in Norfolk. They say there is a keen talent pool in the prison that they want to tap into.

There are collated lists of employers who recruit ex-offenders all over the internet, so they might be a good place to start your job search. Also, going into a business knowing they are happy to hire you even with your criminal record can take a lot of pressure off you.

Government Campaign

The UK government has a scheme called the New Futures Network. This is a specialist part of the prison service that brokers partnerships between prisons and employers.

There are apparently over 300 businesses signed up to the campaign who offer jobs from property development to retail. Employers can:

·         Employ serving prisoners

·         Release prisoners for work on a temporary licence

·         Employ ex-offenders, following their release from prison

More and more businesses are signing up to schemes like this because of all the benefits ex-offenders can bring. Some of the ones listed on the government’s website include:

·        Filling the skills gap: over half of employers can’t fill roles because of a skill shortage. Prisoners and ex-offenders have a wide range of skills that should be utilised by businesses and fill those skill gaps.

·        Reducing recruitment costs: it costs an average of £2,000 to hire non-managerial vacancies, which employers can save on if they use the NFN scheme to hire people with criminal records.

·        Reduce staff absence and increase retention: employees with criminal records tend to be more grateful for their job and more loyal to their employer for helping to give them a second chance.

Overall, the focus on getting people with criminal records back into the workforce is more prevalent than ever.

Will This Trend of Hiring Ex-Offenders Continue?

In this post, we’ve managed to cover what employers can get from a criminal record check, and how many of them actually have to ask you for one. We’ve also discussed what the job prospects for ex-offenders currently look like.

With all of these large companies now employing ex-offenders, and government schemes in place to convince more to take the same approach, it’s doubtful that the trend in hiring ex-offenders will suddenly grind to a halt. Hopefully, what we will see is more and more companies following suite by actively employing people with an unconventional past.


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