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Fair Access to Employment

Everyone should have the ability to access stable and fulfilling employment. Unfortunately, people with criminal records face barriers to this due to prejudice, stigma and discrimination. Through our work supporting individuals, challenging employers and working with regulatory bodies, we want to see a future where every employer sees the person first – not their past.

The problem

More than 12 million people in the UK have a criminal record and there is very little protection for people trying to move on positively with their lives. People with old and irrelevant criminal records are often discouraged from applying for jobs – directly and indirectly.

In 2023, 60% of a sample of well-known high street employers asked about criminal records on their application form. Almost 30% of employers report automatically excluding people who tick ‘yes’ on these forms.

Employer perceptions are slowly changing for the better; over the last decade, the proportion who would hypothetically employ someone with a criminal record has increased from 25% to 45%. And employers who do recruit from this population report positive experiences. Polling from 2019 shows that 81% of employers report a positive impact on their business, while 75% of consumers would buy from a business that hired people with criminal records.

However, poor (and sometimes unlawful) practice is commonplace; criminal records are too often used a means to sift applicants, based on assumptions about what it means to have a criminal record. Data and rehabilitation laws are not always observed as they should be. Employers rarely face consequences for these breaches, which impact the lives of people with criminal records every day.

As a prospective applicant, it can be impossible to know ahead of time how you will be treated as a person with a criminal record. We know that many people with criminal records will avoid seeking new opportunities for their career as a result.

What needs to change

  • Employers include people with criminal records as part of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Employers that use criminal record information improve their policies and practices so that they are fairer and more inclusive.
  • Government has innovative policies to increase recruitment of people with criminal records. 
  • People with convictions are not discouraged from applying for jobs due to their criminal record.

What we’re doing

Phases 1 and 2 of our fair access to employment work was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, enabling us to challenge the discrimination faced by people with convictions in getting employment and support progressive employers in developing fairer polices and practices. We aim for long-term change in employer attitudes and practices by;

Are you an employer?

Visit our website Recruit! for information and resources on fair chance recruitment

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

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