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Author: Ellie Grudgings

New research shines a light on the complex landscape of University criminal records policies

The Autumn Statement 2023 is a missed opportunity to support people with criminal records

What challenges to people with criminal records face when applying to University? A review of Unlock’s helpline

Introducing the Fair Study Toolkit

Call for evidence: recruitment agencies and criminal records

Unlock works with employers to promote Fair Chance Recruitment for people with criminal records.

Through our helpline, we hear that there can be some challenging ‘grey areas’ when applying for work via a recruitment agency.

We hear that there can be confusion around whether, how and when to disclose a criminal record when fulfilling an agency contract. We understand that this can lead to disappointment and unfair treatment, where an agency and an employer take different approaches to criminal records.

We want to hear from people who have sought work via a recruitment agency with a criminal record. Please tell us:

  • Why did you decide to find work via an agency?
  • Were you asked about criminal records when you joined the agency?
  • Did the agency find work for you? If so, what was the role/ company?
  • Were you asked to share your criminal record for the new role?
  • What happened next? Did your criminal record affect your agency employment? If so, how?
  • Anything else that you’d like to let us know

The information you provide will not be shared without your permission, and will help us to make recruitment practice fairer for people with criminal records.

Email us in confidence at

You can find information here if you are currently looking for work through a recruitment agency.

Unlock responds to consultation on employment support and services

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) is an independent centre for research and consultancy, exploring key issues in employment and HR. The IES aims to improve policy and practice in employment and related fields. Learn more about the IES here.

In November 2022, the IES launched the Commission on the Future of Employment Support to develop evidence-led proposals for reform of the system of employment support and services. The first step for the Commission was to launch a consultation to gather evidence on the successes and challenges of existing employment services, and explore how the current system might be reformed.

Employment services have an important role to play in supporting people with criminal records to navigate the UK labour market. Unlock’s response to this consultation highlights the following:

  • People with criminal records are disadvantaged in the UK labour market. Poor policy, practice and attitudes to people with criminal records are prevalent in every sector and create unnecessary barriers for those seeking employment
  • The challenges a criminal record poses to employment can be exacerbated by existing inequalities in the UK criminal justice system. Measures to improve labour market outcomes for disadvantaged groups will be less effective if challenges relating to criminal records are unresolved.
  • Employers should be encouraged to assess people by their skills and suitability for a role first, before exploring the relevance of any criminal record
  • Employment services should develop specialist understanding of the issues faced by people with criminal records. Without this, individuals and employers navigate a complex system alone.
  • Support for employers should include guidance on the relevant legal frameworks, internal policy design and what fair practice can look like. Well-developed policies relating to criminal records are a far more effective recruitment tool than an over-reliance on criminal record checks or blanket refusals. Employers need specialist support to develop these policies effectively.


Find our full response here.

Call for participants: university applications

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12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

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