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Employers more likely to hire people with convictions
Working Chance research provides the most up-to-date facts and figures about employer attitudes towards hiring people with convictions.

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Progress & Prejudice

Working Chance has launched its latest research ‘Progress & Prejudice: Shifts in UK employer attitudes towards hiring people with convictions’. People with criminal convictions face multiple barriers when they start looking for employment. With one in six people in the UK having a criminal conviction, this group makes up a huge part of the population and potential workforce. People with convictions have skills, experience and qualities that would benefit workplaces, but are all too often overlooked.

This market research was conducted with specialists nfpResearch and compares employer attitudes with previous studies from 2010 (by Working Links) and 2016 (commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions).

The findings show that while attitudes are changing, there is still a long way to go to tackle one of the few remaining seemingly acceptable prejudices.

The research

Working Chance commissioned NfPResearch to carry out this research. 1,000 professionals
were surveyed, all of whom had responsibility for hiring staff as part of their role. The sample covered a range of demographics, industries and sectors, as well as a range of size of organisations. Most of the sample were male, white British and between the ages of 35 to 54. 42% were sole recruitment decision makers and either a head of department or CEO.

Of those surveyed, 20 then participated in an interview to help gain deeper insights into the issues. To encourage honest answers, respondents were not told which organisation, or type of organisation, had commissioned the research.

The good news

  • The percentage of employers who say that they would, hypothetically, recruit someone with a conviction has increased. It’s now 45%, compared with 25% in 2010
  • Twice as many employers now (compared with 2016) see that there ‘could be advantages’ to hiring someone with a conviction: 24% say there could be advantages, compared to 12% in 2016. The top three potential advantages they saw were: people with convictions would provide different perspectives; it would help to tackle skills and labour shortages; it would improve the organisation’s diversity and inclusion record.
  • The number of employers knowingly recruiting people with convictions is twice as high as in 2010.
  • 86% of employers who had previously recruited someone with a conviction reported a good experience.
  • In the last six years, the proportion of employers who would not hire someone with a conviction under any circumstance has reduced significantly, from a half of all employers to just over a quarter (50% to 27%).

The less good news

  • 30% of employers say they would automatically exclude a candidate who declared an unspent conviction – even though only 15% said it was their organisation’s policy to immediately reject applicants declaring criminal records. This suggests that some hiring managers are making decisions based on prejudice and not in line with their own organisational policy.
  • People with convictions have the lowest interview to hire conversion rate, out of a range of groups generally considered to be disadvantaged in the labour market.


Employers were least likely to employ people who had committed sexual offences, followed by murder. They were most likely to employ people with driving offences or whose offending was related to alcohol consumption. The gender of the applicant made virtually no difference – it was clear that the nature of the offence was the key factor. Further details can be seen in the graphic below reproduced from the report.

Reluctance to hire

Of the 270 employers in the sample who said that they would not hire someone with a
conviction, the key concerns given that would ‘definitely’ affect their decision were, in order of frequency:

  • It might affect their organisation’s liability insurance
  • It would be against their organisation’s policy
  • The nature of the offence(s)
  • The risk of the person reoffending.


Almost three-quarters of employers who were reluctant to hire people with convictions
were definitely (31%) or slightly (42%) concerned that doing so could damage the public image of their organisation, suggesting that more work is needed to measure public and customer attitudes towards organisations that pro-actively employ people with convictions.


Overall, the Working Chance report brings good news – UK employers are becoming more open-minded and changing their recruiting practices. But there’s still a very long way to go before the question of whether to hire people with convictions doesn’t need to be asked, because it’s the norm.

One in six adults in the UK has a criminal record. Employers who assume that these people are a risk to their business and have nothing to offer are losing out by failing to tap into this under-utilised talent pool.

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Criminal Justice
If Jocelyn Hillman were Justice Secretary

My first priority as Justice Secretary would be to lead by example, hiring an ex-offender as my diary secretary. By employing women with convictions the government could reduce reoffending at no cost to the taxpayer, while also creating life-changing opportunities for some of the most marginalised people in our society.

I would ensure that ex-offenders were included in the Ministry’s diversity quotas and that my staff, from top to bottom, were engaged in understanding the importance of inclusive hiring practices. I would also ensure all government contractors were obliged to implement the same measures.

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