Challenging the many myths around the recruitment of ex-offenders

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

According to figures from the Ministry of Justice, 81% of people* believe that businesses which choose to employ ex-offenders are making a positive contribution to society — yet many organisations remain reluctant to take this vital step.


With only 17% of people, on average, securing employment within a year of their release, this leaves the overwhelming majority struggling to take those first strides towards a brighter future.


But this does not need to be the case. With the right support, prison-leavers can become valuable members of the workplace, bringing a unique set of skills and life experience to their role.


Here at Offploy, we dispel some of the myths surrounding the employment of those with previous convictions, while highlighting just a few of the many positive outcomes which can prove truly transformative for both businesses and wider society.


Why should businesses hire someone with a previous criminal conviction?


  • Figures show that those who secure employment following their release are less likely to re-offend. As a result, hiring someone with a criminal conviction is an investment into both the individual and wider society in general. If someone re-offends it costs the taxpayer, as the individual works their way through many stages of the criminal justice system and the considerable cost to incarcerate someone.

  • The justice system is bursting with talented individuals — whether it is talent within entrepreneurialism, IT expertise or hands-on skills like craftsmanship, to name but a few. Prisons are full of talented individuals with lots of potential. This potential can benefit so many business owners and organisations.

  • Equality of opportunity has never been a hotter topic within the workplace. Adding a further layer of diversity will increase a business’ credentials in this area and, importantly, will further support an organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility credentials.

  • Organisations can vet candidates with a criminal conviction in the same way that they would any other potential employee. As with any hiring process, there will be a probationary period in place, during which an employer can track factors such as punctuality and attendance.

  • Having a criminal conviction is surprisingly common — in fact, ex-offenders constitute up to 20% of the eligible population. Ultimately, a previous record does not need to be a barrier to a successful future — for many of the individuals who we might work alongside, a previous mistake can become a catalyst for positive change.


How can the average person help encourage businesses to hire people with a criminal conviction?


  • Advocating for this cause. Speak about it with your co-workers, managers, and HR business partners. Get the conversation going and spread awareness around the false presumptions. Draw upon the company ethos in explaining how a particular candidate fits in with its corporate values. Often, organisations will provide important insight into the workplace culture through their website. This frequently includes buzz words such as ‘inclusion’ and ‘equality of opportunity’. A work coach can highlight to an employer how, by hiring a candidate with a criminal conviction, they will be re-enforcing the ethics and morals of the organisation.

  • Research has shown that if an applicant has good character references, proof of performance or trained skills, they are much more likely to be considered for a role. Mentioning these factors can make a hugely positive difference to an employment decision. If you know someone who has a criminal conviction, offer them a character or work reference if applicable.

  • Speak to management/hiring managers about their concerns. What is the person basing their fears on? Have they ever hired someone with a criminal conviction before? Are they building up a picture of what to expect based on what they have seen on TV? The reality is often much less daunting.

  • Reassure employers that if they have completed a basic disclosure check on an applicant with a criminal conviction, they will probably know more about this candidate and their potential risks than that of someone who has no history of convictions.

  • Share details of Unlock’s website, recruit, which provides employers with a multitude of resources to support them throughout the recruitment journey:


(*Source: https://gov.uk/government/publications/unlock-opportunity-employer-information-pack-and-case-studies/employing-prisoners-and-ex-offenders)