Overcoming Employment Barriers for Individuals with Criminal Convictions

Did you know that a significant percentage of working-age adults have a criminal conviction? According to data from the Ministry of Justice, approximately 27% of working-age adults in the UK carry the weight of a criminal record. This percentage rises to 33% when focusing on men alone. However, despite these numbers, a 2016 survey commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions revealed that 50% of employers wouldn’t even consider hiring someone with a criminal conviction.

The UK employment market and recruitment

Such exclusionary practices not only overlook a substantial portion of the workforce but also hinder the growth and success of businesses. In the midst of a remarkable labour shortage, where record-breaking numbers of job vacancies are being reported, it’s time for employers to reassess their perspectives on hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds.

It’s essential to recognise that a criminal conviction does not define a person’s capabilities, character, or potential for success. Each case is unique, and overlooking individuals based solely on their past mistakes is arbitrary and shortsighted. By implementing more inclusive hiring practices, employers can tap into a diverse talent pool and benefit from the valuable skills and experiences that individuals with criminal convictions bring to the table.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to consider the wide range of convictions that may appear on someone’s record. Not all convictions are equal, and not all offenses are relevant to the job at hand. Restricting opportunities without assessing the nature of the conviction and the individual’s subsequent efforts towards rehabilitation overlooks the potential contributions they can make in various roles and industries.

Strategies for Employers and Hiring Committees

To bridge this gap and create a fairer employment landscape, employers should adopt a more empathetic and forward-thinking approach. Here are some steps that can help individuals with criminal convictions overcome employment barriers:

Emphasise Rehabilitation and Personal Growth

Encourage candidates to highlight their efforts towards personal growth, rehabilitation, and skill development. Focus on their achievements, commitment to change, and determination to make a positive impact.

Educate Hiring Managers

Provide training and resources to hiring managers to help them understand the rehabilitative journey and recognise the value that individuals with criminal convictions can bring to the workplace. Promote fair and unbiased decision-making during the hiring process.

Implement Ban the Box Policies

Ban the Box is an initiative that removes the “checkbox” on job application forms requiring candidates to disclose their criminal history upfront. This allows individuals to be assessed on their qualifications and abilities first before their criminal record is considered.

Foster Second Chance Programs

Establish partnerships with organisations that support individuals with criminal backgrounds in their reintegration into society. Explore opportunities to collaborate on mentorship programs, vocational training, or transitional employment.

Focus on Skills and Competencies

Shift the focus of recruitment towards assessing candidates based on their skills, competencies, and qualifications relevant to the job. Place less emphasis on their criminal records, as long as the convictions do not pose a direct threat to the role or the organisation.

Strategically Utilise Online Reputation Management

The reputation of your business is a vital asset and it is understandable that there are worries about an employee’s public image. Consider engaging the services of an online reputation management company to control the information that can be found online. 


By implementing these steps, employers can create an environment of inclusivity and equal opportunity. Breaking down the barriers for individuals with criminal convictions not only empowers them to rebuild their lives but also contributes to a more vibrant and diverse workforce.

As society progresses, it’s time for employers to rethink their hiring practices and recognise the potential within each individual, regardless of their past. By offering second chances and focusing on a person’s present abilities and future potential, we can create a society that values redemption, embraces diversity, and thrives on the contributions of all its members. Together, let’s unlock opportunities for individuals with criminal convictions and build a stronger, more inclusive future for all.