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Tag: Support getting back into work

Exploring the hidden job market to find work

You’d think that employers looking to recruit the best people for their vacant roles would want to advertise their roles in as many places as possible to ensure that they had cast their nets as wide as they could.

So you may be surprised to learn that about half of all jobs are not advertised at all. This is often referred to as the hidden job market.

Advertising can be expensive and the recruitment process can be long. Recruiters will often decide to look through their existing records to see if they have anybody that fits their criteria, rather than advertise and then wade through reams of application forms.

If you’re looking for a job then it’s important to know how you can access these hidden jobs and how to go about approaching employers that don’t want you to complete an application form or hand over a CV.

We’ve published some new information on finding a job from the hidden job market which sets out how to access the hidden job market and how to go about approaching employers speculatively.

Moving on: Employment after release

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on employment after release.

A copy of the article can be found below.

On release from prison, and possibly for some time after, your conviction will be technically ‘unspent’ – this means you’ll need to disclose it to an employer if you’re asked about it. Depending on the sector you want to work in, it may be more difficult to secure work with an unspent conviction. However, more and more employers are starting to recognise the value that people with convictions bring to the workplace.

Where can you find help to get into work?

As well as the jobcentre and work programme providers, there are recruitment agencies who specialise in finding work for people with convictions. These include Chance 2013, Working Chance (specifically for women with convictions) and Prosper4 (providing a digital job board).

To make sure you get the most benefit from these organisations, we’d always recommend that you tell them the details of your unspent conviction. By voluntarily disclosing your criminal record, you’re placing a lot of trust in your advisor. However, they’re all bound by confidentiality policies and the Data Protection Act and they will definitely appreciate your honesty.

Some employers have blanket bans on recruiting people with unspent convictions, so if your conviction is unspent, then applying for jobs with these employers would be a waste of both their time and yours. However, if you don’t disclose to your jobcentre advisor and they believe you have the necessary skills and experience to do the job, then you’ll usually be expected to apply. If you refuse, you may be sanctioned and lose your benefits for a while. If you disclose your unspent convictions to your advisor you can potentially avoid situations like this.

Friendly employers

Many employers consider individuals with convictions on merit and actively encourage applications from people with convictions. To try to ensure that people with a criminal record get the most positive start to their applications, a number of companies have signed up to the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign. This includes companies like Barclays Bank, Boots, Costain and the Civil Service. These companies have removed the tick box from application forms which ask about convictions – meaning that all applicants are treated the same and given the same opportunity at that stage in the recruitment process.

Several years ago, Unlock started to develop a list of those employers that are known to recruit people with convictions from the community and those that have established direct links with prisons. These include for example, Timpsons, Greggs, Cisco Systems and DHL. The list is available to download at or by contacting the Unlock helpline.

However, it’s important not to limit yourself to only applying to these companies. There are many employers that regularly recruit people with convictions but don’t necessarily publicise the fact.

Other issues with getting into work

Very few people are banned from working in certain jobs. Generally, the decision whether to employ you is left to the employer. However if, as a result of your conviction, you have been placed on the children’s or adult’s barred list then you’ll be breaking the law if you seek to work in ‘regulated’ activity with a group from which you are barred.

Also, if you’re on licence one of the standard licence conditions is “Not undertake work, or a particular type of work, unless it is approved by the supervising officer and notify the supervising officer in advance of any proposal to undertake work or a particular type of work”.

The majority of probation officers recognise the importance that work plays in helping to turn lives around and so will often be happy to approve employment unless there are very good reasons why they shouldn’t (for example if you’d be working for a company which could bring you into direct contact with your victim). However, calls to our helpline show that this isn’t always the case. If your probation officer refuses you permission to work for a certain employer or in a certain role, they should provide you with the reason for their decision. If you don’t believe the decision is justified then you may want to consider challenging it. However, before formally appealing ask your probation officer to put their reasons for refusal in writing; you’ll then be completely clear about what you’re appealing.

What does the future hold?

Getting a job with a criminal record is likely to be challenging but definitely not impossible. Many businesses are already raising concerns about the potential lack of workers when the UK leaves the EU in 2019, with many being actively encouraged to consider the talent that many people with convictions have to offer.

Are there any advantages to disclosing your criminal record to your jobcentre/work programme advisor?

If you’re not asked about your criminal record then, legally, you don’t need to disclose any unspent convictions, but in our opinion, withholding this information means that your advisor may not be able to provide you with the best information, advice or service.

So, are there any other benefits in choosing to disclose?

The role of the jobcentre advisor is to support you back into employment. They will often have a good idea of the recruitment practices of local companies and how ‘friendly’ they are towards people with convictions. If your advisor has a good understanding of any potential problems you face in getting back into work (for example, an unspent conviction), they’ll be better placed to help you. You could even use this as an opportunity to test out your disclosure technique on your advisor.

Some companies have blanket bans on recruiting people with any unspent convictions, some ban people with certain types of offence. Failing the criminal record criteria isn’t going to secure you a job with these types of employers but, if you’ve not disclosed your conviction to your advisor and they believe you’ve got the relevant skills and experience, they’ll expect you to apply.

What if your conviction is spent?

For many jobs, you don’t need to disclose spent convictions. If these are the jobs you’re focusing on, you could choose to make that clear to your advisor in terms of your job search.

Some jobs, for example a cleaner in a school, are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and mean that you’ll need to disclose both spent and unspent convictions (unless it’s filtered). If you’re not comfortable in disclosing a spent conviction then, providing they know about it, your advisor can steer you away from applying for these types of jobs.

What else should you think about?

By voluntarily disclosing your criminal record, you’re placing a lot of trust in your advisor. However all advisors are bound by job centre confidentiality policies and the Data Protection Act.

Most advisors will welcome your honesty – it will make their job much easier and will hopefully help you both to establish a good working relationship.

If you choose to disclose your spent conviction and you’re only applying for jobs covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, make sure that your advisor knows that it’s for information purposes only and that there are only certain jobs where you’d need to disclose it.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our support getting into worklooking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering and disclosing to employers sections.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Is it possible to become a police officer if you have a criminal record?

Over the last few years, the rules regarding eligibility to become a police officer have been slightly relaxed. However, there are still strict entry requirements and some convictions/caution will result in your application being immediately rejected whilst others will be considered on a case by case basis.

We have published some new information which sets out how your criminal record might affect your application to join the police.

If you have a criminal record and were accepted to become a police officer, we’re keen to hear from you and share your story anonymously. Email us at


For more information

  1. For practical self-help information  – More information on this can be found on our looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering section
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum – specific occupations and professions
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact the helpline.

Is it worth applying to your local council for a taxi licence if you have a criminal record?

As anybody with a criminal record knows, finding paid work can be difficult and so, for many, self-employment can be very attractive. If you enjoy driving, then becoming a taxi driver could be one option for you to consider.

You will need an operator’s licence which you can apply for through your local council or from Transport for London (TfL) if you want to work in the capital. You will also usually need:

  • To have held a full UK or EEA driving licence for at least 12 months (3 years in London)
  • An enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check
  • To be over 18 (21 in some areas)
  • Pass a geographical test
  • Complete a driving skills assessment

For further information visit driving licences for taxi’s and private hire vehicles.

The need for an enhanced criminal record check will often deter people from applying for these types of licences with many individuals assuming they will automatically be refused. But, is this right?

A Freedom of Information request undertaken recently by a Welsh newspaper looked at the number of taxi licences applied for through Cardiff Council. The results showed that they had received over 1,000 applications between January 2012 and September 2016 with 176 of these listing some type of conviction which were considered by the Council’s Public Protection Sub-committee. Of these 176, over 50% of applications were granted a licence.

A spokesperson for the Council said:

Each application is determined on its own merits and consideration is given to the seriousness of the offence, the sentence imposed, whether there is a pattern of offending and any other facts that may be relevant’

Although the FOI report in this instance related to Cardiff Council, our experience from calls to our helpline has shown that significant numbers of people applying for taxi licences who have a criminal record are successful.

There are usually taxi and private hire driving opportunities in every part of the country. Some companies will expect you to own your own car but many will give you the opportunity to rent a car from them. The job allows you to work flexible hours and, with drivers in many towns earning approximately £20K per year for a 40 hour week – this may be just the job for you.

So, if you’re interested in getting a taxi licence, a DBS check shouldn’t be the thing that stops you from applying.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our criminal record checks for employment (including DBS) section and A-Z of job roles and their eligibility for basic, standard and enhanced criminal record checks
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact theHelpline.


Can employment law help you if you’re refused a job or been badly treated by your employer as a result of your criminal record?

Anybody with a criminal record will, at one time or another, have come across some form of negativity or discrimination when applying for work.

Many employers simply don’t know enough about criminal record disclosure legislation and have little understanding of what they can and can’t do.

If your conviction is spent, then you will have some rights under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA). If however it is unspent or, you are applying for jobs which are exempt from the ROA, then you will have very little legal protection.

If you have been refused a job or been treated badly in the workplace as a result of your criminal record then it’s important that you are clear about what, if any, legal remedies are available to you.

We have updated our information on spent and unspent convictions and employment law which aims to set out the legal options open to you if you find yourself in one of the situations described above.

For more information

Applying for work through recruitment agencies

With so many employers advertising temporary and permanent jobs through recruitment agencies, we’ve published some new information, applying for work through a recruitment agency.

As agencies only get paid once they’ve placed a successful applicant with an employer, some agencies may be tempted to weed out anybody who has disclosed a criminal record to them. It’s important to understand therefore how and when you should disclose.

Our new information also lists some recruitment agencies who deal specifically with helping people with convictions back into work. In addition to the usual range of services offered by an agency, they can often assist you in putting a CV together, preparing you for interviews and offering advice around disclosing your criminal record. Some, like Working Chance, also seek to change the attitudes of employers towards people with a criminal record.

However, don’t limit yourself to only signing up with these specialists. Most agencies will have exclusive access to jobs which you would not be able to find through online searches. You might only be looking for an introduction to these companies, and securing a job will be down to how well you can sell yourself to the employer.


For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our disclosing to employers and looking for (and keeping) work sections
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Overcoming the problems of dealing with the Jobcentre

Our helpline often receives calls from people with convictions who are desperate to get back into work but run into difficulties when dealing with the Jobcentre.

Some examples of the types of problems we hear about are:

  • Jobcentre advisors who have little or no understanding of criminal records, criminal record checks, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the impact of a criminal record when looking for work
  • Jobcentre advisors insisting that people who have restrictions on them apply for jobs which they would either be prevented from applying for or which they would stand little chance of getting
  • Individuals having sanctions placed on them as a result of having to attend mandatory probation programmes.

We’ve set out below some ways of dealing with these types of problems.

The whole subject of criminal records is extremely complex and Jobcentre advisors very often receive no specific training in getting people with convictions back into work. You may be lucky to have an advisor who has previously worked with people with convictions or who has an interest in working with this group and will have taken it upon themselves to have a better understanding of the issues that people with convictions face. Over the last couple of years, the Department of Work and Pensions has recognised that more support should be provided to ex-offenders but this does not necessarily mean extra training for Jobcentre staff. It’s best not to assume that your advisor will have a good knowledge of criminal records.

Some problems can be avoided by just being absolutely upfront and open with your advisor from the outset. We tend to advise individuals never to disclose details of their criminal record unless they are asked. However, your advisor will be in a much better position to help you if they are aware of any limitations on what jobs it is sensible (or legal) for you to apply for. It will usually be possible to get an agreement with your advisor on any ‘restrictions on work searches’ at the beginning and have these written into your Job Seekers Agreement to prevent any problems later on.

Many advisors can be quick to sanction individuals who they believe have ‘breached’ their Job Seekers Agreement. If you have to miss an appointment(s) because you are required to carry out an unpaid work requirement, meet with your probation officer or attend a mandatory programme, then your advisor will have very clear guidelines (the Decision Makers Guide) in how they should deal with this, which should not automatically involve sanctioning you.

It’s important that you inform your advisor in advance if you are unable to attend any Jobcentre meetings/interviews. The Probation Service and courts will always try not to place any requirements on you that would conflict with your benefit entitlement (including ‘signing on’). If the date/time of your unpaid work etc can’t be changed then you should ask your probation officer to put a request in writing to the Jobcentre asking for your ‘signing on’ day to be rearranged.

If you are required to attend mandatory programmes, for example anger management or drug/alcohol treatment programmes, these are likely to be quite intensive and the timings and length may vary depending on the nature and seriousness of your offence. You will need to provide your advisor with details of the programme in writing and they may then be able to add into your Job Seekers Agreement some restrictions on your availability for work.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – Find out more information on support getting into work
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine under the tag looking for (and keeping) employment
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

What’s the best way to explain gaps in your CV?

It can be your worst nightmare when you’re sat in an interview and asked this question:

Can you explain this gap in your CV

People have gaps in their CV’s for a number of reasons, but for people with a criminal record, this often comes about because of time spent in prison or having lost a previous job due to getting conviction. There can be a tendency amongst employers to overlook a candidate who has periods of time without work, and sometimes the gap in your CV is what can introduce the employer to knowing about your criminal record.

This is something we get asked a lot about by people with convictions applying for jobs, so we’ve published some new information, explaining gaps in your CV as a result of a criminal conviction  which aims to set out the best ways of dealing with this issue either on a CV, on an application form or at an interview.

It’s important to remember that employers do worry about gaps in CV’s as they often think  it casts doubt over an applicant’s commitment to employment. If you can successfully dispel this doubt, by explaining the gap in a positive way, showing that you have the initiative and drive for the role, then you’ve gone a long way towards dealing with this element of the problem.

For more information

How do you answer this – “Have you ever been dismissed or subject to disciplinary action?’”

We recently heard from someone who, about 5 years ago, was dismissed from his job for gross misconduct following a criminal conviction, even though the offence was committed outside of work.

Fortunately, he found another job almost immediately and has worked there ever since. Although he enjoys the work and has been promoted a couple of times, he believes that there are few further opportunities for progression added to which, the pay is relatively low.

Now that his conviction is spent, he’d like to apply for a new job. However, although he doesn’t have to disclose his spent conviction for most jobs, he’s found that many application forms ask the following question:

Have you ever been dismissed or subject to disciplinary action?’

He didn’t feel that he would be able to explain his dismissal without going into detail about his conviction which, legally, he isn’t required to do.

What would you do?

  1. Tick the ‘no’ box on the application form which might seem like lying
  2. Be honest and feel like you’re having to disclose your spent conviction

Is there a third option?

This isn’t the first time we’ve come across this.

Having successfully secured a job, individuals will often worry that if they apply for other jobs, their previous conviction may come to light or, they will need to disclose it to a new employer and risk being judged all over again. It’s often easier to ‘stay put’.

In this case, however, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) would be able to offer him some protection, especially as his conviction is spent and the jobs that he’s applying for are covered by the Act. Section 4(2) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act states:-

The person questioned shall not be subjected to any liability or otherwise prejudiced in law by reason of any failure to acknowledge or disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction in his answer to the question’.

The key phrase here is “circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction”.

This essentially means that if an application form asks a question about being dismissed or being subject to disciplinary action, which came about as a result of conviction that is now spent, the ROA allows you to say “no” to that question and not be penalised.

In practice, if you find yourself in similar circumstances to the one explained above, you should think about whether, if you don’t tell them, whether the employer might find out about your dismissal or disciplinary action in some other way. If you think they might, although you don’t legally need to, you may choose to still tell them but then explain it relates to a conviction that is spent now.

For more information

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