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Recruiting Ex-Offenders in Your Business

If you're interested in making your business a much more inclusive place and opening up the talent pool for future employees, then take a look at our tips for recruiting ex-offenders.

You will learn

  • How you can open up you job applications
  • What you can ask about convictions
  • What checks you can carry out

Many employers are hesitant when it comes to recruiting ex-offenders in their business, and as a result, miss out on a wide range of talent. Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the UK has a criminal conviction? Even if it’s something as common as a speeding fine, you’ve likely interacted with someone with a conviction already today without even knowing, so why would you put a limit on the range of applicants you can recruit in your business?

In this article, we’re going to help you understand how you can adapt your recruitment process to be more inclusive to ex-offenders, what you can ask about criminal convictions, and how you can welcome them into your business.

Opening up your job applications

A big barrier that ex-offenders face when applying for jobs is the tick box on an application form. Consider your recruitment paperwork, have you got a section that directly asks people to tick whether or not they’ve got a criminal conviction? Having this question on your application form often deters ex-offenders from even applying and you can be missing out on all the invaluable skills they could bring into your business.

Employers who don’t ask about criminal convictions on their applications can become part of the national Ban the Box campaign. By joining the campaign and showing your commitment to being an inclusive employer, not only can you access a wider range of talent for your business, you’ll also see a positive impact on your reputation. 65% of businesses who promote themselves as inclusive employers see an increase to their reputation, and the better your reputation, the more sales you are going to make.

Asking about convictions

Once you’ve banned the box and have brought people forward to interview, you might then want to ask about criminal convictions. You need to make sure you’re bringing the right person in to your business and there are certain crimes and jobs that just won’t mix. So, you might want to ask about any criminal history in later stages of your recruitment process.

However, if a conviction is considered “spent”, your potential employee doesn’t need to tell you about it. A spent conviction is one that, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, once a certain amount of time that passed since the offence, it can be ignored. How long that is depends on the crime committed, but once it is fully “spent”, your potential new employee is not legally required to tell you about it. You can find out more about “spent” convictions here.

Do you need to carry out disclosure checks on your new employee?

You’ll need to determine what checks you definitely need to carry out on your employees. All employers are entitled to what are called Basic Disclosures, which will inform you if your potential employee has any “unspent” convictions and is still in their rehabilitation period. You can find out more about these here. If you know your potential employee has an “unspent” conviction, you are able to carry out further checks to ensure they’re a good fit for your role.

Lots of business owners want to carry out further disclosure checks on their employees (DBS checks), but you should check that your work allows you to do this legally. For example, if you’re recruiting trades workers (electricians, plumbers, gardeners etc.) or customer service advisors, it’s actually illegal for you to require a DBS check on your employee. However, there are some jobs require these checks before an employee will be allowed to start work. If your employee's duties involve working with children or vulnerable groups, or you work in healthcare or veterinary surgery, you’ll need to run these checks.

These are just examples of the types of work that do or do not require DBS checks on your employee. If you want to clarify whether your position needs one, contact DBS customer services on 03000 200 190, or email

Make your business welcoming

While you might be nervous about bringing an ex-offender into your business, they’ll also be nervous about coming into your workspace. We’ve all faced the new job jitters, and for someone returning to work after a criminal conviction, it can be incredibly daunting.

Thankfully, there are lots of ways that you can help set them at ease as they join your team. First thing’s first, start talking to other business owners who are already recruiting ex-offenders. They’ve got invaluable experience that you can draw on and use in your business to become much more inclusive. 

Your other members of staff will likely have questions about your new employee, and it's perfectly normal to want to know things about the new person they’ll be working with. However, you shouldn’t disclose information about your new employee’s criminal record to anyone in your business who doesn’t genuinely need to know. You might need to inform their direct line manager, but only if the offence is relevant to the role. If you do share that information with anyone else in your business, make sure you let your employee know who you’ve told and why. This will give them confidence that their personal data won’t be shared unnecessarily and make them feel more comfortable in their role.

Make sure you conduct an employee induction when your new member of staff arrives at your business. You can check out our tips for inductions here to help you get started. Taking the time to show a new employee around, making introductions and giving them useful information for working in your business helps make their transition into your business much easier.


Recruiting ex-offenders in your business can be daunting, but it can have lots of positive effects on your business. Not only are you contributing to the reduction of re-offending, you’ll be opening your business up to a wider range of talent and will see the benefits of a reputation increase for being more inclusive.


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Written by:

Michelle Taylor

Operations Director

Email Address:

Telephone: 07827894217