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Looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering

Bringing together links to information, resources, advice, FAQ's and useful links

Looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering in brief

  • Many organisations employ people with a criminal record. Proactive employers often sign up to initiatives such as the Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending (EFFRR) and Ban the Box.
  • ‘Good’ employers will deal with criminal records on a case-by-case basis and we regularly hear from people working in a wide-range of careers; from construction, restaurants and hotels to solicitors, accountants and the NHS.
  • Although there are few organisations offering specific support to people with criminal records who are looking for employment, it’s important to know that you can still seek help from your local job centre and recruitment agencies.

Finding work

Simply having a criminal record does not prevent you from getting a job. In a limited number of cases, certain convictions may stop you from working in certain roles, but, if this applies to you, you will probably already be aware of it.

More and more employers are happy to take on people who have a criminal record but don’t restrict yourself purely to these organisations.

Unfortunately there are still some employers who have blanket bans on recruiting people with an unspent criminal record and for some roles, people with certain types of offences will be disqualified from holding those positions unless they are granted a waiver.

There are many roles and professions that are ‘regulated’ in some way and they will all have different ways of dealing with criminal records.

If you have been out of work for a while or want to move into a new sector then you could consider applying for a voluntary role. Volunteering will often give you the opportunity to learn new skills or update your existing ones.

Applying for work

Before you start applying for work it’s always a good idea to update your CV; styles change and a CV can very quickly become quite dated.

If there are gaps in your CV (perhaps due to being in prison or out of work for a long time) then you may want to design one which emphasises your skills and abilities.

You should also give some thought to your referees. A previous employer is under no obligation to give you a reference and if your criminal record is linked to a previous employment, you may have to consider alternatives. It’s important to note that previous employers are not legally allowed to disclose any information about your criminal record unless you give your explicit consent.

What are your legal rights when looking for work

Irrespective of whether you have a criminal record, you will still have the same general employment rights as anybody else (for example you can’t be discriminated against on the basis of your race, sex, age etc). In terms of your criminal record, you will usually have more employment rights once your conviction is spent.

Usually you’ll need to have been employed for at least two years before you have any employment rights but in certain circumstances, you may be able to claim for wrongful dismissal if you have less than two years service.

Frequently asked questions

  • You should start by putting together a CV. If there are gaps in your employment history (because of the time spent in prison), you may want to consider a skills-based CV rather than a traditional chronological one. There are books and plenty of online sites which have different CV templates you may want to consider.

    You could send speculative CV’s to employers in your local area who you may like to work for but who don’t have vacancies at the present time.

    Most employers will ask about criminal convictions and you should start to give some thought to how you would disclose your convictions and what sort of questions you will be asked by an employer.

    Many prisons have Jobcentre Plus and Benefit Surgeries and you should make an appointment with one of the advisors to start an application before release for Universal Credit if you are entitled to it.

  • It’s really important that you don’t give an employer the opportunity to judge you before they’ve met you. Therefore, don’t disclose too much at application stage. If you are completing an application form, you should tick the ‘Yes’ box that asks about criminal convictions but if it asks for details, merely state “Willing to discuss at interview”. Hopefully this will encourage an employer to focus on your skills and experience rather than your offence. Once you have secured an interview, you can disclose at that time.

  • Yes. The only specific restriction to this is for those individuals who are barred from working with vulnerable groups. In this situation, you would not be able to work in ‘regulated activity’. Otherwise, it is perfectly possible for people with convictions to be employed working with vulnerable groups.

    During the recruitment process it’s likely that all of your convictions will be disclosed to the employer, and it will be up to them to decide whether to employ you.

  • It depends on whether you are found to be ‘voluntarily unemployed’.

    If you are unemployed, you are normally eligible for universal credit. However, those found to be ‘voluntarily unemployed’ can have their entitlement reduced, or be completely ineligible. The DWP can impose a sanction to disallow your universal credit payments if they thing you have made yourself ‘voluntarily unemployed’. In some circumstances you can apply for a hardship payment, and you can always appeal against the decision to get the benefit paid sooner.

    To demonstrate that you are not ‘voluntarily unemployed’ you have to prove that you ‘did not leave your job irresponsibly and for no good reason’. If you were dismissed because of your criminal record, you won’t automatically be found to be ‘voluntarily unemployed’. If you resigned from your job (for example before the employer had the chance to dismiss you) then you are likely to be seen to be voluntarily unemployed.

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