My client has a criminal record. Are there legal restrictions on the jobs they can apply for?

How will my client’s criminal record impact on their chances of getting into work?

Is there a list of employers that are ‘ex-offender friendly’?

My client has gaps in their employment history which are due to time in prison. How should they address this with employers?

How can I increase my client’s chances of getting into work?

My client has a criminal record. Are there legal restrictions on the jobs they can apply for?

In reality, very few people with criminal records are banned from applying for certain jobs. In the vast majority of cases, if your clients need to make a criminal record disclosure when applying for a certain job, it will be up to the employer to decide whether to employ them. There are some situations in which your client may be restricted from applying for certain jobs or certain types of work:

  • If they are currently on licence and the licence stipulates certain conditions that may impact on their choice of employment. For example, if the licence conditions state that they must not go to a certain area, they will not be able to apply for jobs that require them to travel to or via that area.
  • If they are subject to an order that imposes certain prohibitions that may impact on employment. For example, a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO, previously a Sexual Offences Prevention Order) may stipulate that they may not use the internet, which can impact on the type of work they apply for.
  • If they have been barred from regulated activity with children or adults (or both), in which case it will be unlawful for your client to apply for regulated activity with the relevant group(s).

Your client should be aware of any restrictions that may impact on their employment options. However, you may find it useful to ask the following questions to establish whether any of the above may apply to them:

  1. Are you currently under the supervision of the Probation Service (or a Youth Offending Team)? If the answer is yes, you can follow this up with a question about any restrictions they may have that could impact on where they are able to travel to and who they are able to work with.
  2. Are you currently under multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA), or do you have a public protection officer? If the answer is yes, you can follow this up with a question about any restrictions they are aware of that could impact on their employment options.
  3. Are you interested in working with children or vulnerable groups? If the answer is yes, you can follow this up with a question about whether they have been barred from regulated activity with children or adults. Note that if your client has been barred, it doesn’t mean that they cannot work with vulnerable groups, it just means that they cannot apply for regulated activity with children or adults or both (depending which group they have been barred from working with).

How will my client’s criminal record impact upon their chances of getting into work?

This is likely to depend on the following:

  • Whether your clients need to disclose their criminal record for the type of job for which they are applying (see here) for advice on whether your client needs to disclose).
  • The employer’s policy (or regulating body if the organisation is regulated) on recruiting people who make criminal record disclosures. (Please see here for further advice on how different employment sectors treat applications from people with criminal records.)

Many people who have more serious offending histories, particularly those who have been in prison, are often advised that they should apply for work in specific sectors (e.g. warehouse work or construction). There is no particular reason why this should be the case. If your client has the motivation, skills, merits and abilities to work in a specific sector, these should be far more important to an employer when determining their suitability than mistakes they have made in their past.

When applying for work, your client needs to show the employer that they have the skills to do the job. Relevant qualifications or experience are likely to improve their chances. General skills such as communication, flexibility, motivation, reliability, willingness to learn and get on with other people and – where relevant – customer relations skills can be as important to employers as skills which specific to a particular role or sector.

If your client needs to disclose a criminal record, they will significantly increase their chances of securing employment if they go about disclosing their record in the right way. For advice about helping your client to prepare for disclosure, please see here.

Is there a list of employers that are ‘ex-offender friendly’?

We have supported thousands of people with serious and significant offending histories into work across all employment sectors. This demonstrates that there are lots of employers that are open and willing to recruit people with criminal records, but this is not always something organisations will advertise publicly. However, there are some organisations that do actively and openly encourage job applications from ex-offenders and/or support them into work.

Nacro supports Business in the Community’s (BITC) campaign Ban the Box, which calls on employers to create a fair opportunity for ex-offenders to compete for jobs by removing the tick box from criminal record declaration forms and asking about criminal records later in the recruitment process. See here for the list of organisations that have signed up to the Ban the Box campaign and are promoting best practice in the field of recruitment.

It is important to remember that just because an organisation is open to recruiting people with past convictions, this doesn’t mean that they will give preferential treatment to applicants who make criminal record declarations. As with anybody applying for a job, your client must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills and experience required for the post, or the application will most likely end in disappointment.

My client has gaps in their employment history which are due to time in prison. How should they address this with employers?

If your client has significant gaps and/or no recent employment history due to time in prison or a secure unit, they may find it more useful to draft a skills-based CV which makes their key skills the main focus, as opposed to their chronological work history which will highlight the gaps. The National Careers Service offer online examples of skills-based CVs.

If your client is asked to address any gaps in their employment history during the initial application stage, they have the option to say something quite unspecific (e.g. ‘I was unavailable to work during this period’). They are not being asked directly for a criminal record declaration, therefore they do not have to make one at this stage if they prefer not to.

If they are invited to interview, they will need to be prepared to elaborate on why they were not available to work during the specified periods. This means that they will need to be prepared to make their disclosure at this stage. For advice on how to prepare your client to disclose at interview, please see here.

Alternatively, your client may prefer to be upfront with the employer straight away and let them know from the beginning that they have been in prison. In this case, your client will increase their chances of getting further in the recruitment process if they prepare a disclosure statement which they can submit in a separate envelope marked ‘confidential’ alongside their application. For advice on how to help your client to prepare a disclosure statement, please see here.

How can I increase my client’s chances of getting into work?

You can increase your client’s chances of getting into work by:

  • helping them to understand if and when they may need to disclose their criminal record
  • advising them on how their chosen sector or employer treats applicants who make criminal record disclosures by reviewing the relevant recruitment policies
  • ensuring that they only apply for suitable jobs given their experience, knowledge and skills
  • supporting them to tailor their CV/application to the jobs for which they are applying
  • helping them to prepare a disclosure statement which is tailored to the job for which they are applying
  • preparing them for interviews
  • making sure that they have at least two recent references

If you are unsure how to advise your client on any of the above points, please contact Nacro’s Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.