How can I help my client with disclosing their criminal record?

When should my client disclose?

Where can I/my client get further advice on disclosing criminal records to prospective employers?

How can I help my client with disclosing their criminal record?

In most cases it is useful to help your client to prepare a written disclosure statement before they start applying for jobs. Even if your client would prefer to make a verbal disclosure, it is important that they prepare exactly what they are going to say as this gives them the opportunity to gather their thoughts and to have someone else objectively review what they intend to say. It will also reduce their chances of being caught off guard by a question about their criminal record or gaps in their employment history that might be due to imprisonment or being held on remand. In short, preparing a disclosure statement will increase your clients’ chances of securing a job.

The best disclosure statements are those which are genuine and accurately reflect the person’s circumstances and attitudes. For this reason, it is important that the disclosure is in your client’s own words. If your client has difficulties with reading or writing, you might find it useful to ask these questions of them and write down their answers verbatim. With this information, you can help them to construct their statement.

file_pdfDisclosure preparation (102 KB)

A good disclosure statement reassures the employer about your client’s offence(s). Try to put yourself in the shoes of the employer who is receiving the information and trying to make a judgment on the basis of the information being provided. If the following points apply then your client should emphasise them in their disclosure statement.

The offence(s) was/were committed a long time ago. In some cases it may be that the conviction is recent but the offence is not. If so, this should be clarified.

The offence was a one-off and was out of character. If your client has a number of offences that occurred over a period of time, try to group them together (e.g. “between 2001 and 2005 I was convicted on a number of occasions for offences relating to…”).

The offence is not relevant to the job for which your client is applying. Offence codes can make it difficult for employers to judge whether the offence is relevant. For example, serious violent and sexual offences are generally considered relevant to roles which involve unsupervised work with children or work with vulnerable adults. There are also a wide variety of offences that have little relevance, such as public order offences.

The offence sounds more serious than it was. One way of explaining to employers that an offence is not as serious as it might sound is by drawing attention to the penalty or sentence received. Offence codes cover a very wide range of offences that vary in terms of seriousness. A sexual offence, for instance, covers everything from young men sleeping with their underage girlfriends to indecent assault and rape. Violence covers everything from slaps and smacks, normally recorded as battery or common assault, to grievous bodily harm and murder. Drug offences cover everything from possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use to possession of class A drugs with intent to supply. Burglary covers everything from taking goods from shop storerooms to entering the homes of elderly people, leaving them in fear. Arson ranges from a person setting fire to litter bins to a person destroying property and endangering lives.

There were particular circumstances, which have now changed, or reasons behind the offence(s). For example, if your client had an addiction issue at the time of the offending which they have since addressed. Reassure the employer that your client has addressed, changed or learnt from the reasons or causes that led to their offending.

Your client took responsibility for the offence(s) at the time. For example they pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity or cooperated with the investigation.
As with any application or CV, a disclosure statement must be tailored to the specific job for which your client is applying, as different employers may have different safeguarding concerns. A disclosure statement is personal to your client and their circumstances, so there is no perfect disclosure statement. Your client might find it useful, however, to try and include the following:

Start with something positive

Tell the employer why they are applying for the role, what they can offer, previous experience, skills, abilities etc.

Explain the offence(s) in their own words

Tell the employer, briefly and in their own words, the offences that need to be disclosed and, if appropriate, the circumstances. Highlight any mitigating factors (e.g. addiction issues, in with the wrong crowd, loss of a loved one etc.). It is important not to let mitigation sound like an excuse.

Reassure the employer they are not a risk

This should be the focus of the statement. Your client should mention any employment, voluntary work or other experiences which demonstrate a proven track record of working as a safe and responsible staff member. If their circumstances have changed since the time of the offence(s), it might be helpful to mention this. For example, if they have family or financial commitments such as a mortgage, this might demonstrate that they have too much to lose from getting into trouble again. If personal problems contributed to the reasons behind the offence(s), it might be worth stating that these problems have been resolved and their circumstances are now very different. If they have any good character references, mention these as they will also be useful to the employer.

Please see our guide on disclosing criminal records for further advice about preparing disclosure statements. If you would like us to review your client’s disclosure statement, please contact the Resettlement Advice Service on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.

When should my client disclose?

Employers use various methods to recruit new staff and the point at which your client makes their disclosure may not be the same for every job. In general, it is a good idea to disclose at the point at which you are asked for a declaration. This is for two reasons: employers prefer it that way and it will help your client’s own peace of mind. If an employer has a problem with their record, it is better for your client to know at the outset.

Applying with a CV and covering letter

Often, employers will ask applicants to apply for a job with a CV and covering letter. Submitting a CV gives your client the opportunity to sell themselves by writing about their experience, knowledge and skills and why they are the best person for the job.

Your client should not include any information about their criminal record on their CV. If they have gaps in their employment history which are due to time in prison and they are not asked directly to write about their criminal record in their application, they could explain these gaps by stating that you were ‘unavailable for work’ at a certain period in time. If your client is not asked for a criminal record declaration directly, then there is no need for them to disclose this information at this stage. But they must be prepared to answer fully and honestly if they are asked, at interview, to explain what they mean by ‘unavailable for work’.

We advise that your client puts everything in writing so they have evidence that they disclosed their criminal record. Some people prefer to disclose verbally at interview, but it is important to also have a written disclosure statement as well. It is likely that the subject will come up at interview and your client should do their best to focus on reassuring the employer that they do not present a risk in the role they have applied for and support this with evidence of how their circumstances or attitude has changed.

Applying with an application form

Instead of being asked to submit a CV and covering letter for the job, your client might have to complete an application form which includes a section asking them to make a criminal record declaration. They can either state on the form that they have a conviction and that they will be happy to discuss it if selected for interview, or they can prepare a written disclosure statement that can be sent with the application form. If your client decides to send a disclosure statement, they should enter on the application form that they are sending a disclosure statement under a separate cover. The statement should be sent in a sealed envelope marked ‘confidential’ and states your client’s name and details of the post for which they are applying.

Disclosing at the interview

Your client might be better at explaining things verbally rather than in writing. However, it is important to have a written statement as well. If disclosing verbally, your client should prepare what they intend to say very carefully in advance and make sure that they have practiced it with you. It is difficult to be totally relaxed in an interview and they do not want to be in the position of either letting the disclosure dominate the interview or, on the other hand, finding that they become confused when giving information about their criminal record.

You and your client should be aware that sometimes it is not the people conducting the interview who will make the final recruitment decision when there has been a criminal record declaration. Therefore, if your client decides to speak about their criminal record in an interview, they should take along a written disclosure statement to give to the interview panel so that it can be kept with their application and will serve as evidence that they have disclosed their criminal record.

Where can I/my client get further advice on disclosing criminal records to prospective employers?

You can contact our dedicated Resettlement Advice Service about any questions you might have about what, when and how to disclose. We can also give advice about preparing a disclosure statement and review and provide constructive feedback on any draft statements.

All queries received are treated in the strictest confidence. You can contact us on 0300 123 1999 or helpline@nacro.org.uk.