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Category: News for employers

Criminal records webinar Wednesday 2 December

Do you deal with criminal records in your work? You might be helping people with convictions who are applying for jobs, or working in recruitment/HR and making hiring decisions or carrying out DBS checks.  

If any of these apply to you, book a place and join us on Wednesday 2 December for our webinar on understanding the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the disclosure of criminal records. 

The criminal records system in England and Wales is complex and often confusing. There are over 11 million people with a criminal record. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is a piece of legislation that sets out when convictions become ‘spent’, and it’s important to know the difference between unspent and spent convictions and when they need to be disclosed.  

When and where?

Wednesday 2 December, 2-4pm, Online
(Please join at 1.45pm to begin promptly at 2pm – thank you) 

Price: £49 (if booked before 1 November, normal price £59) 

Price includes a course pack with materials and useful resources which will be sent to you before the webinar. 

Places are limited, so book now to guarantee your place. If you wish to be notified on any future webinars, please email 

Who is it for? 

The webinar is aimed at anyone who deals with criminal records in their work. You might be helping people with convictions who are applying for jobs, or you might be working in recruitment/HR and making hiring decisions or carrying on DBS checks. 

What it will cover

  • The levels of DBS criminal record check and what they disclose 
  • How individuals can find out about their criminal record 
  • The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and spent convictions 
  • The filtering rules and protected cautions/convictions 
  • Good practice in asking about criminal records for employment and volunteering 

To find out more and to book, visit our Eventbrite page. 


If you have any questions, email 

This webinar is part of the training that we provide. 

Almost three-quarters of national companies continue to ask about criminal records at job application stage, new research shows

Unlock has today published new research that shows the vast majority of national companies continuing to have criminal record declarations as a core part of their initial job application forms.

Marking the 5-year anniversary of the Ban the Box campaign, the findings reveal the extent to which national employers have failed to recognise the negative consequences of criminal record tick-boxes on application forms.


Commenting on the report, A question of fairness, co-director of Unlock Christopher Stacey said:

“We’re proud to have co-founded the Ban the Box campaign and it’s really positive that over 110 companies – including Barclays, Boots, the Civil Service, and Virgin Trains – have signed up so far, but this new research shows that it remains the case that asking about criminal records at application stage is the default approach for almost three-quarters of national, big name companies. It’s also worrying that around 1 in 5 of them are asking for information they are not legally entitled to.


“These findings are unsurprising – employers are asking about criminal records at application stage as a way of deselecting applicants. We know this approach has a chilling effect on talented applicants with a criminal record, many of whom never apply because they think they don’t stand a chance. In fact, evidence from employers who do recruit people with criminal records shows that they make reliable, hardworking and loyal employees. Employers who are open about their inclusive recruitment practices report a positive impact on their reputation.


“Yet the numbers of employers removing criminal record questions from their application forms is not increasing fast enough. Earlier this month Unlock published new guidance for employers which showed that collecting criminal records data at the job application stage is unlikely to be compliant with the GDPR and data protection legislation. Government, business and charities need to seriously consider how to accelerate the changes in employer behaviour that Ban the Box encourages. Unless significant progress is made, increasingly it seems that the only way to make sure employers remove the tick-box is by looking to put Ban the Box on a statutory footing.”


Responding to the findings, Jessica Rose, Ban the Box campaign manager at Business in the Community, said:

“Unlock’s work to unearth the recruitment practices of some of the country’s biggest private sector employers paints a stark picture of confusion and inconsistency when it comes to managing risk around criminal convictions. This results in people being unfairly excluded from work and many more believing that no one is willing to give them a chance. Employers need to grasp the nettle and implement Ban the Box, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it will benefit their businesses and their communities.


“Some of the employers cited in this report already work with Business in the Community and other charities to support individuals into employment. This should give them the positive evidence they need to make the business case for changing their mainstream practices. We want to work with these businesses, alongside Unlock, to support them to put robust, fair and inclusive practices into place.”


We surveyed 80 large, national employers across eight sectors – supermarkets, retail, hotels, food and drink, construction, car manufacturing, utilities and communications and found that:

  1. 77 out of 80 employers had online application forms.
  2. Of those 77, 54 employers (70%) asked about criminal records on their application form.
  3. 80% of employers who asked about criminal records provided no guidance to applicants.
  4. 22% of employers asked about criminal records in a way that was either potentially unlawful or misleading. 
  5. Collecting criminal records data at application stage is unlikely to be compliant with data protection legislation.
  6. None of the employers surveyed provided information to applicants on why they collect criminal records data, or for how long it will be retained. Under the GDPR, employers who fail to provide this information are likely to be in breach of the law.
  7. None of the construction companies and only around half the car manufacturers in our survey asked about criminal records at application stage.


The findings of this report show that there is still a long way to go in encouraging employers to stop asking about criminal records on application forms. In the conclusion we explore the broader implications of this report, but to achieve a fundamental shift in recruitment practice and seeing Ban the Box as business-as-usual, we believe there are steps that both government and employers should take. That is why we make a number of recommendations to both government and employers, which can be found on pages 4 and 5 of the report.



  1. Unlock is an independent, award-winning national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence.
  2. There are over 11 million people in the UK that have a criminal record.
  3. The report can be downloaded here. A summary of the report can be downloaded here. The full list of employers we surveyed, along with the questions they ask, can be found in the Annex.
  4. The report has been produced as part of Unlock’s Fair Access to Employment project, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
  5. Unlock runs the website Recruit! – providing advice and support for employers on recruiting people with convictions and dealing with criminal records fairly. Employers looking for further advice about this guidance can contact
  6. For employers that want to sign up as a Ban the Box employer, please see


New criminal records guide and resources for recruitment agencies

Commenting on the launch today by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) of guidance and resources for recruitment agencies, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, the national charity for people with convictions, said:

“Recruitment agencies are an important source of job opportunities for people with a criminal record. That’s why Unlock was pleased to work with the REC to develop these good practice resources and encourage its members to support inclusive recruitment towards people with a criminal record. Expanding the candidate pool to include under-represented groups is good for individuals, good for business and good for the community. The vast majority of people with a criminal record want to leave their past behind and move forward in a positive way. Sustainable employment is key to that, and we know that employers who recruit people with convictions find them to be loyal, hard-working and reliable employees. We look forward to continuing to work with the REC and its members to put these resources into practice and help them to make the most of the skills and experiences that people with convictions can bring.”

The criminal records guide is designed to support and advise recruiters on best practice for candidates with a criminal conviction.

You can read a blog on the REC website about the launch, as well as download a 2-page infographic and read a checklist for recruiters, as part of the resources that have been published today.

Unlock comment: Ministry of Justice’s Education and Employment Strategy

Commenting on the Ministry of Justice’s Employment and Education Strategy, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“Unlock welcomes today’s Education and Employment Strategy from the Ministry of Justice, which includes some key measures that we support, including looking at financial incentives to encourage employers, and the civil service piloting its own scheme to directly employ people with convictions. We know that finding meaningful employment is a significant barrier for people with criminal records, and that despite some examples of proactive and positive employers, the overwhelming majority of employers take negative approaches towards people who disclose past offences.


“Nevertheless, the strategy doesn’t go anywhere near far enough and the Ministry of Justice has made a significant mistake by focusing solely on prisons and those released from them. It does nothing to deal with over 90% of people convicted each year who don’t go to prison but still struggle with employment because of stigma and discrimination as a result of their criminal record.


“Efforts in the strategy to engage with and support employers – such as a new body, the New Futures Network, and a new employer website – are positive steps forward, but will have limited success if they are not backed up by long-term joined-up strategic investment to support and challenge employers to recruit both people leaving prison and those with a criminal record in the community. The Ministry of Justice itself also seems to have missed the opportunity to lead from the front in employing people with convictions and become a beacon of good practice for other Whitehall departments to follow.


“Fundamentally, a criminal record is the biggest barrier to employment that most people will face when leaving the criminal justice system. Regardless of their skills and experience, people with convictions are routinely held back because of it. To genuinely improve their employment chances, the Ministry of Justice must seriously question the criminal records regime and look to reform it so that it does not act as the lifelong anchor, holding back people who have turned their lives around.”


  1. Unlock is an independent, award-winning national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence.
  2. There are over 11 million people in the UK that have a criminal record.
  3. Unlock’s website is
  4. Unlock submitted written evidence to the Ministry of Justice to inform the development of the strategy. Download our submission.
  5. Unlock has views on financial incentives to encourage employers – this is available here.

Unlock comment: Recruitment & Employment Confederation becomes Ban the Box employer

Commenting on today’s news that the Recruitment & Employment Confederation has become a Ban the Box employer, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, the national charity for people with convictions, said:

“Recruitment agencies are an important source of job opportunities for people with a criminal record. That’s why we’ve been working with the Recruitment & Employment Confederation in supporting agencies in taking on people with criminal records. We’re delighted that the REC is practicing what it preaches by signing up to the Ban the Box campaign to promote fair recruitment practice. We are looking forward to continuing to work with them and their members to support fairer and more inclusive practices that help recruitment agencies to make the most of the skills and experiences that people with convictions can bring.”

Changes to rules for charities and criminal records – coming soon

Changes to the ‘automatic disqualification’ rules that affect who can run a charity, and particularly people with criminal records, will come into force on 1st August 2018.

The current rules only apply to trustees. People with unspent convictions for certain offences, including dishonesty and deception offences, need to be granted a waiver from the Charity Commission before they can be a trustee.

There are two main changes happening in August this year:

  1. There are more offences covered – including people on the sex offenders register
  2. There are more roles covered – the rules will apply to certain senior manager positions such as chief executives and chief finance officers.

But don’t wait until August. People involved in charities need to work out if they’re affected, and charities will need to update their recruitment processes to reflect the changes to the rules.

If you will be disqualified when the new rules change on the 1st August, you can apply for a waiver of your disqualification by the Charity Commission from 1st February 2018. There’ll be an application form on their website from that date, and if you’re currently involved in a charity in a way that you’d be disqualified, you’ll need to apply for a waiver as soon as possible for you to continue after 1st August.

We’ve been aware of these upcoming changes for a couple of years, and we’ve been working with the Charity Commission to make sure that, given they were being implemented, the changes happened in a way that didn’t unnecessarily exclude people with convictions and that charities felt confident in understanding and applying the rules.

That’s why we’re publishing guidance for both charities and individuals, and this will be available from the 1st February. Updates can be found on our landing page for changes to charity rules or you can sign up to our mailing list.



Third Sector

Civil Society


More information

  1. The Charity Commission announced these dates in their January 2018 news.
  2. Updates can be found on our landing page for changes to charity rules or you can sign up to our mailing list.
  3. Find out more about the policy work we’ve been doing on the changes to the rules.

Decade-old criminal record disclosures? The need for reform

With the disclosure of old and irrelevant criminal records in the spotlight, Christopher Stacey looks at how the system is unfairly holding people back

Over four million jobs every year involve employers requesting an enhanced criminal record from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Although these were originally for roles that involve close contact with children and vulnerable groups, the types of positions that often involve them has now gone way beyond the core purpose. For example, Unlock is regularly contacted by people who have been told they need an enhanced check for a job, for example, as a delivery driver or a receptionist.

These checks alone would not be so much of an issue, if it were not for the fact that, given the current rules for disclosing old and minor criminal records, it means that around 250,000 people every year are affected by old and minor cautions and convictions being revealed on enhanced DBS checks.

Couple that with the known negative reactions (and often blanket policies) of employers towards applicants with a criminal record, it is unsurprising that they are the least likely ‘disadvantaged group’ to be employed.

Against unnecessary disclosure

We need to make sure that enhanced DBS checks do not unnecessarily disclose information that is old, minor or irrelevant to the job being sought. Up until now, there has been very little detail on what type of information gets disclosed on DBS checks, which is why the briefing published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is so welcome.

The research shows that in 2015, over one million criminal records were disclosed on standard or enhanced checks. Yet nearly three-quarters of those criminal records (742,482) were more than ten years old.

We know that the length of time since their last offence is one of the most important factors in establishing the likelihood of someone committing an offence in the future, so why is it that these criminal records are being disclosed over a decade later?

The desperate need for reform

The crux of the issue are the current ‘filtering’ rules. Although these are complex, they essentially mean that if someone has a certain criminal record, it will be disclosed on an enhanced DBS for the rest of their life. This includes someone:

  1. With more than one conviction on their record, or
  2. has been cautioned or convicted for a certain type of offence (there are over 1,000 of these, including aggravated bodily harm and soliciting for the purposes of prostitution), or
  3. who has received any type of prison (or suspended prison) sentence.

This can affect somebody who stole two chocolate bars when they were 14 and who is now in their fifties. This puts a lot of people off applying and unnecessarily anchors people to their past. The routine rejection by employers locks people out of the labour market and has a considerable financial cost to society through out-of-work benefits.

At Unlock, we have argued that the filtering rules are in desperate need of reform. Earlier this year, Court of Appeal agreed, ruling that the current system is disproportionate and not in accordance with the law. The government is dragging its heels by appealing to the Supreme Court. It is clearly not listening to the compelling evidence that shows the significant and unnecessary barriers to rehabilitation that the current regime is creating.

Recent reports by David Lammy MP and the Justice Committee have also added weight to the need for changes.

It is common sense that certain offences need to be disclosed to employers. But we should not be unnecessarily blighting the lives of people who are trying to move on, by disclosing old, minor or irrelevant information that holds them back and stops them from reaching their potential.

A fairer and more flexible system would be one with expanded automatic filtering rules and a discretionary filtering process, with a review mechanism so that individual circumstances can be considered.

Alongside changes to the filtering rules, Unlock has long supported the introduction of a criminal records tribunal. This would allow enable individuals to apply for an end on the disclosure of their criminal record to employers on a relevant criminal record check.

There is evidence from overseas that this approach works. It would help to address the injustice that many people face as a result of what are currently arbitrary, fixed rules that take no account of the positive steps that people have taken since the actions that resulted in their receiving a criminal record.


Basic DBS checks are coming soon – find out more

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is introducing basic criminal record checks for people in England & Wales. This replaces the service previously provided by Disclosure Scotland.

This is a significant development for both people with criminal records and employers in England & Wales, so we’ve developed a new information page dedicated to basic DBS checks as a one-stop-shop for the latest information, advice and updates. It’s been written primarily for people with convictions, but with employers and others in mind too, covering things like:

  1. How to get a basic check
  2. Should the check be sent to the applicant or the employer?
  3. What are eCertificates & eResults?
  4. Our advice for individuals
  5. Our advice to employers

Basic checks are a type of criminal record check that can be used by employers and other organisations, for example when they are recruiting staff. They can also be used by insurance companies in validating claims. Basic checks show any ‘unspent’ criminal records (as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). Once a conviction or caution is ‘spent’, it no longer shows on a basic check.

Why is this important?

  1. It’s been a long time coming – The introduction of basic checks has been in the business plan of the DBS since 2002 (back when it was the CRB, the Criminal Records Bureau).
  2. It’s highly likely to mean an overall increase in criminal record checks – The DBS is anticipating around 1.7 million basic checks in the first year. This compares to just under 1.2 million in 2015/16 when it was done by Disclosure Scotland.
  3. It means criminal record checks will be available online – The basic DBS check will be available in both paper form and online. The setting up of an online account (for both applicants and organisations) will allow access to what are referred to as “eCertificates”.
  4. It makes the type of DBS check being done even more important – Employers often refer to a role “involving a DBS check”. Up until now, reference to “a DBS check” could be taken as code for meaning a standard or enhanced check, which meant the disclosure of cautions and convictions, even once spent. Now, with the DBS doing a basic level check, it’s even more important that employers explain what type of check a specific role involves to make sure that applicants clearly understand what they need to disclose.
  5. It’ll hopefully reduce ineligible checks – We’ve been cautiously encouraging the introduction of basic checks as a key part of how to reduce the numbers of employers carrying out levels of checks (i.e. standard or enhanced checks) for roles that are not eligible for them.

What is happening and when?

From 1st September 2017, the DBS will begin processing basic criminal record check applications.

There will be a transition phase between 1st September and 31st December, where basic checks will still be available from Disclosure Scotland too. After the 31st December 2017, basic checks will no longer be available to applicants in England & Wales from Disclosure Scotland.

To start with, the basic check service from DBS will be open to a small number of large registered organisations. This will be followed by an online process for individuals, expected to be from 1st January 2018.

Disclosure Scotland will continue to process basic check applications for people in Scotland.

We’re waiting for more information from the DBS about the exact timescales, and once we have these, they’ll be on this page.

We’re expecting the DBS to publish its own online guidance on basic checks soon. Once it’s available, we’ll link to it from here.

For more information

The information in this post is likely to develop over time. For more information, and the latest details, visit our information page on basic DBS checks.

This was originally published as an update on our information site

Unlocking the potential of the UK’s ex-offenders

An article published  by Nat West suggests that one  remedy to fill the UK’s skills gap could be to hire more ex-offenders and discusses what is the best way to go about it.

Christopher Stacey contributes to the article, stating “We know from employers that have been proactive in recruiting people with convictions that they make good employees. The first thing we recommend any company does is look at its current policy and approach. ”

You can read the full article , including tips for employers who are considering hiring an ex-offender, here.






Unlock welcomes new official open recruitment employer guide

Published by the Department for Work and Pensions in partnership with Business in the Community, the guide, Strengthening your workforce with talent from disadvantaged groups, comes after high demand from the business world for more help and support for employers to become inclusive.

Part of the See Potential campaign, it’s already been welcomed by the FSB Chairman Mike Cherry in the Telegraph’s Business pages last week and by the CBI’s President Paul Drechsler, CBE, in the Great Business Debate online. Many business organisations, such as the Institute of Directors, British Chambers of Commerce and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation are also behind the new toolkit.

See Potential infographic

With a particular section on people with criminal records, it includes 7 top tips for employers that have been drawn from our principles of fair chance recruitment and lists six useful organisations, including Unlock.

Responding to the launch of the guide, Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said:

“We welcome the launch of this official open recruitment guide. It’s important that companies get a consistent message about how to be more open in their recruitment, and this guide pulls together many elements of good practice that we have embedded into our principles of fair chance recruitment. It’s a much-needed resource for companies looking at how to strengthen their workforce by making sure they’re not missing out on talent pool that exists amongst people with criminal records. From here we encourage the government to not only ramp up its work in supporting employers to be more open by providing practical hands-on support, but also by directly challenging those companies that we know have unfair and discriminatory policies and procedures.”


More information

  1. The official guide can be downloaded from the See Potential website.
  2. Unlock has a dedicated website for employers, Recruit!, which supports employers to recruit people with convictions and deal with criminal records fairly.
  3. We have posted about the guide on our website for employers.
  4. The website includes ten principles of fair chance recruitment and practical guidance for companies.
  5. It’s part of Unlock’s fair access to employment project.


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