Practical information & advice

There are 3 main levels of criminal record check and which one is done by the employer depends on the job role. Make sure you know what level of check an employer is doing and only disclose what you legally need to. Spent convictions are not disclosed on basic DBS checks. Filtered cautions/convictions are not disclosed on standard or enhanced DBS checks.

If an employer wants to know about criminal records, they will normally ask you to disclose in a certain way; this might be at interview or after they’ve made a conditional offer. Some employers ask on their application form. Where possible, we suggest that you disclose your record face-to-face; this tends to be most effective. Prepare a self-disclosure statement; this should help. Address any concerns you think they may have but stay positive and don’t concentrate solely on the negatives of a conviction. The ‘Ban the Box’ campaign encourages employers not to ask about criminal records on application forms but instead leave it until later in the process. See who’s signed up by visiting

Many organisations employ people with convictions. Proactive employers often sign up to initiatives such as the Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending (EFFRR) and Ban the Box. ‘Good’ employers will deal with criminal records on a case-by-case basis. We regularly hear from people working in a wide-range of careers; from construction, restaurants and hotels, to solicitors, accountants and the NHS. There are personal stories on

Taken from our top 10 things to know

Read our latest news posts about looking for (or keeping) employment and volunteering


Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to looking for (or keeping) employment and volunteering.

What do I need to disclose?

This will depend on the type of criminal record check that an employer will be doing and whether your conviction is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act or eligible for filtering from standard and enhanced DBS checks. Useful links include:

I want to work in a specific occupation/profession – will I be able to?

There are many roles and professions that are ‘regulated’ in some way. They all have different ways of dealing with criminal records. Useful links include:

Which employers have positive policies towards people with convictions?

Many employers are happy to take on people who have a criminal record. We have a list of friendly employers but don’t restrict your searches purely to these organisations. See the link below.

Which employers have particularly negative policies towards people with convictions?

There are still some employers who have blanket bans on recruiting people with an unspent criminal record. We’ve put a list together of some of these but if you know of any more, let us know. See the link below.

Who can help me to find a job?

As well as the job centre and work programme providers, there are also recruitment agencies who specialise in finding work for people with convictions. See the link below.

What are my rights when looking for work?

Irrespective of whether you have a criminal record, you will still have the same general employment rights as anybody else (for example you can’t be discriminated against on the basis of your race, sex, age etc). More specifically with regard a conviction, you will generally have more employment rights once your conviction is spent. See the link below.

Do i need to inform my employer if I receive a conviction whilst in work?

You will need to check your contract of employment to see whether there is any clause which specifically asks you to disclose a conviction you receive whilst you’re employed. See the link below.

Will my partners conviction cause me any problems getting a job?

Possibly, it’s going to depend on the type of job/role that you’re looking for. See the link below.

Is it possible for me to be a trustee or senior manager of a charity with a criminal record?

In August 2018 the rules in England and Wales as to who could be a trustee or senior manager of a charity changed. People with certain types of offence are now disqualified from holding these positions unless they are granted a waiver from the Charity Commission.

Does my previous employer have to give me a reference? What is he allowed to say about my criminal record?

Generally, your previous employer is under no obligation to give you a reference. Unless you give your previous employer your explicit consent, they are not legally allowed to disclose any information about your criminal record. See the link below.

For general advice on working with recruitment companies and job boards, or to report issues which may arise during your job search, you can visit SAFERjobs, a joint law enforcement and industry non-profit organisation working to promote a safer job search.

Where can I find volunteering opportunities?

Local volunteering centres are often a good place to start or national online databases which can provide you with a list according to your interests. See the link below.

I’m in a resettlement prison and working out – what can I earn?

Whatever job you have whilst in prison, you’re salary should be the same as a person doing the same job who isn’t in prison. However, approximately 40% of your net pay will go towards the victims levy. See the link below.

I want to work overseas – what are the rules on disclosure?

This will depend on the job you are applying for and the country you want to work in. See the link below.

I have a job and I’m having problems with my employer because of my criminal record

Just because you have a criminal record, you still have the same general employment rights as anybody else (see the link below). There are some instances where it may be appropriate for Unlock to take on your case and provide you with individual help and support.

I’ve been sacked after my employer found out about my spent conviction. Do I have any employment rights?

Generally you’ll need to have been employed for at least two years before you have any employment rights. In certain circumstances, you may be able to make a claim for wrongful dismissal if you have less than two years service.

Is there a way of dealing with the fact that my criminal record details can be read online?

If your convictions are spent, you may be able to try and get the website to remove the details, and/or get links from search results removed. Otherwise, there are ways of trying to counteract negative search results. Useful links include:


Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on looking for (or keeping) employment and volunteering. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions.

  • There are very rarely any hard-and-fast rules about what employers must do in response to criminal records.
  • Generally, employers respond best when convictions are disclosed face-to-face, when you get a chance to explain the circumstances and try to alleviate any immediate concerns that they may have.
  • We regularly speak to people with convictions who have managed to find employment in all different sectors and professions. These cases continue to show us that there are many employers out there who are willing to give people a chance. The numbers of these types of employers may not be as high as we’d like, but it shows that you should never give up – if you continue trying, you will eventually find an employer than is willing to look beyond your conviction and employ you because they think that you are the best person for the job.

Frequently asked questions

Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get about looking for (or keeping) employment and volunteering and the answers we generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s may be included in the information pages above.

You should start by putting together a CV. If there are gaps in your employment history (because of the time spent in prison), you may want to consider a skills based CV rather than a traditional chronological one. There are books and plenty of on-line sites which have different CV templates you may want to consider.

You could send speculative CV’s to employers in your local area who you may like to work for but who don’t have vacancies at the present time.

Most employers will ask about criminal convictions and you should start to give some thought to how you would disclose your convictions and what sort of questions you will be asked by an employer.

Many prisons have Jobcentre Plus and Benefit Surgeries and you should make an appointment with one of the advisers to start an application before release for Job Seekers Allowance if you are entitled to it.

You should make contact with your local Jobcentre as soon as you can as they will be aware of employers in the local area who are recruiting. There are a range of organisations that support people who are struggling to find work but these vary depending on the area in which you live. See our ‘support getting into work’ section.
It’s really important that you don’t give an employer the opportunity to judge you before they have met you. Therefore, don’t disclose too much at application stage. If you are completing an application form, you should tick the ‘Yes’ box that asks about criminal convictions but if it asks for details, merely state ‘Willing to discuss at interview’. Hopefully this will encourage an employer to focus on your skills and experience rather than your offence. Once you have secured an interview, you can disclose at that time. See our disclosing criminal records to employers section.
There is some information on our Hub, looking for friendly employers‘, which identifies a number of employers who, either as a result of their recruitment process or company ethics, have a positive attitude to people with convictions.

There are many more employers who are not included on our list who will consider individuals with convictions but who don’t generally publicise the fact – this is often because they’re worried about being inundated with applications.

Yes. The only specific restriction to this is for those individuals who are barred from working with vulnerable groups. In this situation, you would not be able to work in ‘regulated activity’. Otherwise, it is perfectly possible for people with convictions to be employed in working with vulnerable groups. In this situation, during the recruitment process it will be likely that all of your convictions will be disclosed to the employer, and it will be up to them to decide whether to employ you. They may also have a specific policy in place, which may help you understand where you might stand.
It depends on whether you are found to be ‘voluntarily unemployed’.

If you are unemployed, you are normally eligible for Job Seekers Allowance. However, those found to be ‘voluntarily unemployed’ can have their entitlement reduced, or be ineligible completely. The DWP can impose a sanction to disallow you JSA payments if they think you have made yourself ‘voluntarily unemployed’. In some circumstances you can apply for a hardship payment, and you can always appeal against the decision to get the benefit paid sooner.

To be found not to be voluntarily unemployed, you have to prove that you ‘did not leave your job irresponsibly and for no good reason’. If you were dismissed from you job because of your criminal record, you shouldn’t automatically be found to be ‘voluntarily unemployed’. Often, if you do claim JSA you will receive the full amount you are entitled to from the start of your claim as the Job Centre will contact your previous employer to find out the circumstances behind your dismissal and will also ask your side of the story. Only then will they make a decision about sanctioning your benefits. This can sometimes take several months.

If you resigned from your job (for example before the employer had the chance to dismiss you) then you are likely to be seen to be voluntarily unemployed.

The best thing to do would be to contact your Line Manager or HR Department and arrange a time for you to go in and disclose your conviction. Explain the reasons why you did not disclose it previously. This will hopefully reassure them that you did not intentionally hide it from them. If your employer does decide to withdraw the job offer, there is very little that you could do to reverse their decision as you have very few employment rights.
If your probation officer considers that you pose any type of risk to an employer then they will encourage you to disclose your convictions. If they have reason to believe that you are not going to disclose then they are within their rights to do it themselves.

It would certainly be in your best interest to disclose it yourself. Your probation officer will not be able to explain the circumstances surrounding the conviction as well as you and an employer may consider the conviction to be more serious than it is, merely because it is being explained to them by a probation officer.

Discuss the disclosure with your probation officer so that you are very clear about how much or how little they want you to disclose to potential employers.

The National Staff Dismissal Register is something that was set up back in 2008. As far as we’re aware, this is no longer active. Although information remains online, we have yet to be contacted by anybody with convictions who has been affected by this.

Useful links

Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to looking for (or keeping) employment and volunteering that will refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.



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