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Call for evidence: recruitment agencies and criminal records

Tell us about your experiences of finding work through a recruitment agency with a criminal record

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.


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  1. There are two possible scenarios. The first is to find work ‘through’ an agency; like answering an advert for a job posting. The second is to ‘contract’ with an agency. During my search for work, I followed the first scenario a number of times although, in reality, I knew that there would be a negative reaction because agencies have to bear the brunt of any potential problems and there is simply no incentive for them to do so. I did apply for ‘government’ contracts on the basis that the government have discrimination policies in place. I went through the entire interview process even through I did disclose at the very beginning – right at the last stage, they said they could not consider my application because of the criminal record. I applied for a number of jobs in this way and the results were always negative.

    I had, for many years, contracted as an IT Consultant working in the UK, Germany, Holland and the USA – very successfully. I later crossed-trained as an teacher and taught (pre conviction) in a secondary school. I applied to teach English in China and that application was rejected due to my heart condition rather than any criminal conviction – how’s that for irony.

    I have not tried to offer my services as a contractor because I know that the agency will not be willing to take any chances – why would they? There is no incentive to do so and there are no penalties for refusing applications from those with a criminal record. I saved myself the embarrassment of disclosing.

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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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