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Ex-offenders are defined as people with any kind of historical criminal record. Due to stigma, and some employer uncertainty around checks and documentation, people in this group may often be unnecessarily excluded from specific aspects of the labour market.

Did you know?

  • It is not illegal to employ someone with a criminal conviction. However, it may actually be illegal to discriminate against someone because of a criminal conviction. 
  • Over 11 million people in the UK have a criminal conviction of some kind (BITC)
  • Providing an ex-offender with employment can reduce their chance of re-offending by between 30-50 per cent (Ministry of Justice and Department for Work and Pensions, 2011) and contribute positively to their life following a conviction. 


Things to consider:

  • Recognise that those with a conviction history could have faced barriers and disadvantage in gaining employment and work experience previously.
  • Offer multiple routes into employment, such as an apprenticeship or volunteering. This could help you build your future talent pipeline, training the right people for the right role.
  • Learn about how South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust offered a pre-employment programme across their local community, including considering those with a potential past conviction. 
  • Sign up to ban the box, an initiative to remove information about criminal records on application forms. You can also read about why Halfords are endorsing the initiative.
  • Work in partnership with your local Jobcentre Plus (JCP) as they are likely to already have customers from this group. Find out more about JCP partnership working on our dedicated webpages.
  • Advertise your vacancies with voluntary sector organisations, which work with recently released prisoners.


Things to consider to make the recruitment process as supportive and open as it can be:  

  • Listen to this podcast with Sir John Timpson who talks about Timpson's ex-offenders recruitment programme, focusing on its challenges and advantages.
  • Ensure that you are clear on why you are asking about criminal conviction and that it is relevant to the role you are recruiting for. Take a look at our employment checks web section for advice.
  • It might be easier or more accurate to seek a personal reference from the candidate's support or case worker, rather than a professional reference. 
  • Have an open and honest conversation about any convictions you do become aware of. It may be that you can consider the individual for your vacancy once you have heard a bit more about the situation you are considering.


Things to consider to help you retain staff who have a past criminal conviction: 

  • Allow candidates time to attend any appointments with a support worker or probation worker. 
  • Ensure that you uphold confidentiality of any conviction history an individual may disclose to you. 
  • If necessary, supply accommodation in partnership with a local homelessness charity. Sandwell and West Birmingham has supported apprentices who faced homelessness and who may have had a previous criminal conviction to stay in their training. 
  • Learn more about how Virgin Trains' Employing ex-offenders programme has offered those with a criminal conviction a chance at meaningful employment.

Further reading 

Use the resources below to find out more about how you can support your local community by offering open recruitment and employment to those with a past conviction.

Business in the Community 

BITC works to tackle a wide range of societal issues in order to build a fairer society and a more sustainable future. They provide a number of accessible resources and guidance which could help you engage with and support people who may have a previous criminal conviction into your workforce: 

A simple step-by-step guide to open recruitment created by See Potential in partnership with Business in the Community to help you in your recruitment process. This focuses on ex offenders among other groups underrepresented in the NHS workforce. 

Clinks - providing employment and training opportunities for offenders

Clinks supports organisations working with ex-offenders and their families. Read this publication, a collection of case studies, to learn more about offering employment and training opportunities to ex-offenders. 


The employer website Recruit! offers a suite of tools, resources and advice to employers seeking to employ those with criminal convictions. Their guidance section goes through the journey of recruitment to employment.

NACRO - Recruiting safely and fairly

NACRO provides services to support people in moving on in their lives. They have developed helpful guidance on recruiting safely and fairly. 

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