Category Archives: Uncategorized

Employer Guidance for Recruiting People with Convictions

The first principle of Recruit With Conviction is to select the right person for the job regardless of unrelated criminal convictions.

We recognise the importance of flexibility for employers to take up recruit with conviction. For some employers the first principle sets out a clear message that recruiters are empowered and authorised to select a candidate with convictions. Sometimes, employers seek additional social outcomes for their communities and having a criminal record may be part of being the right person.

Recruit With Conviction supports employers to move with the pace and ambition which is right for them. The approach can be discreet or it can be public but it should be underlined by a commitment to be fair to applicants with convictions.

Trapping people into poverty after they have served their sentence has created long term inter-generational sojial justice problems in our poorest communities. There is untapped potential among people with convictions, which is left untapped by widespread poor recruitment practices. This is an opportunity for employers which use Recruit With Conviction guidance.

Supporting your Workforce

Recruit With Conviction workshops are carefully provided in order to inform your workforce about safe and sustainable employment of people with convictions and allows employees to:

  • unpick myths and misconceptions about criminal histories,
  • consider connections with diversity and inclusion,
  • broadly understand the legal framework: Balancing the responsibilities of protection with the protection of rights
  • understand how disclosure of convictions affects applicants and recruiters

This can be tailored to your own recruitment or provided as a cross organisational workshop.

Supporting your Applicants

Apply With Conviction is an ongoing 5-year action research programme working with Jobcentre plus staff, careers advisers and wider employability staff to enable them to improve their support to job applicants with convictions by using an Apply With Conviction model.

Disclosure of convictions unearths complex human behaviours, including anxiety and avoidance behaviours. The main outcome is that advisers are better equipped with the following information:

  • The rights and responsibilities of applicants with convictions
  • Why, when and how to honestly disclose criminal convictions to employers

Some employers also provide direct support to applicants with convictions and this ranges from implementation of clear and fair guidance through to providing a service to applicants to help them to disclose convictions.

Banning the Box

Recruit With Conviction has worked closely with Business in the Community and other partners in the development and direction of Ban the Box UK. Removing tick-box processes from criminal record disclosure is an important element of inclusion and diversity because so many people with convictions de-select themselves as soon as they see the disclosure question.

Relevance and risk

Most convictions are not directly relevant to most workplaces so and risk assessments must fit in with any risk processes that you operate in your business. Relying on criminal history information on applicants is not a safe risk tool if it is used in isolation. It is best to speak to directly to the applicant about any concerns and find out what has changed in their lives. If you still have concerns about an applicant’s criminal history, then ask them if you can speak to their social worker or another justice professional. Also, work in partnership with a local prison, a local authority or an employment support providers because they can advise you.


The starting point on confidentiality is “who needs to know”, however it is more complex than this. Sometimes convictions have no relevance to anybody else in the workplace but sometimes they do. This most important factor is to be honest with the applicant about who will be told and who won’t be. Unless the conviction history is very minor or very old then there is always a risk of the individual being “outed” by someone in the community, a colleague or an internet search. So be pragmatic and ask the applicant about what they think is best and work out the best approach with them.





Protected Convictions Scotland Consultation

Recruit WIth Conviction responds to the Consultation on the Police Act 1997 and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 remedial order 2015


Do you have any views/observations on this Order?


This amendment will give confidence to potentially hundreds of thousands of people to take up volunteering with vulnerable groups or apply for work as a taxi driver, traffic warden, care worker or a host of other professions, however new practical problems have arisen.

New Practical Problems

People with convictions will not know if convictions are protected and recruiters tend to view any non-disclosure as a breach of trust, so a new catch22 situation has arisen.

After such long periods of time, it is unlikely that anyone will remember enough details about convictions to be confident whether or not it will be protected. Working this out is quite complex and citizens will be concerned about getting it wrong.

Protected convictions are now within the scope of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This creates problems for employers who can now unwittingly discriminate against an applicant who discloses a protected conviction. While guidance from Disclosure Scotland will ease some of these problems a number of solutions are still required.

Conviction Disclosure Anxiety

Conviction disclosure anxiety (CDA) is a natural response when someone is asked about their criminal convictions. Negative previous experiences of disclosure, toxic sounding conviction labels and high aspirations tend to heighten the problem. The resulting avoidance behaviour is not exclusive to serious offending histories.  In fact CDA is surprisingly common across most of the 1 in 3 men and 1 in 10 women who have a conviction marked on the Scottish Criminal History System.

Specialist services exist which support people to overcome CDA and teach applicants how to disclose appropriately. However resources for these services are increasingly tight and they tend to be directed towards a very small number of individuals with serious of persistent offending histories rather that the majority of people with convictions.

Appeal Process

An appeal process now exists, where spent convictions which are eligible for protection but have not yet passed the time period for protection.  A letter will be sent to the applicant before disclosing to their employer. It will offer them an option to either appeal to a sheriff or allow Disclosure Scotland to send the certificate on to the employer. The sheriff will then decide if the conviction is relevant to the job and can remove the conviction from the certificate. It is right that this should continue, however this process should ideally be picked up before a recruitment process begins to avoid delays for recruiters and applicants and a more general mechanism to remove unprotected convictions may be more practical. The SSSC has designed an effective process for fitness to practice and this may be a more practical mechanism and this is combined with more knowledge of regulated work compared to a sheriff.

 Required Solutions

A properly resourced dissemination framework

There is an extreme deficit in knowledge about disclosure on the part of career advisors, jobcentre plus staff, employability workers and other professionals who may support applicants.

Providing guidance on the existing Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 algorithms and practical advocacy for disclosure and overcoming Conviction Disclosure Anxiety, is largely regarded as “someone else’s responsibility” – probably someone in the criminal justice system.  This mindset needs changed and the knowledge needs to be shared so that what, why, when and how to disclose convictions becomes a core skill-set of all professionals who provide employability support.

Recruit With Conviction disseminate information to employers and relevant advisers, however our work is limited by funding only from our commercial activities and re-investments. This barely scratches the surface of the problem and a funded mechanism to cascade this information should be a priority.

Employers who use higher level conviction disclosure information also need to be aware of the regulation and how they need to reframe the way they ask for conviction disclosure and reconsider the way that they handle disclosure of protected convictions so that they comply with data protection requirements.

Free on-demand access to criminal history information

Currently a citizen can only confirm the details of their criminal history by applying for a Subject Access Request to Police Scotland. This costs £10, requires copies of identification to be sent and has a turnaround period of up to 40 days. This significantly interferes with job search and still requires specialist intervention to figure out spent/unspent/protected markers.

Having spoken to police officers, Recruit With Conviction understands that this process could be easily administered at any open police station.

If Disclosure Scotland algorithms were also applied to the Police system, then each conviction could also be marked as unspent, spent-unprotected or spent-protected on a print out for the citizen.

Given the correlation of poverty and minor criminal convictions, we also believe that the £10 charge is somewhat excessive for a citizen to find out critical information which affects their opportunity to compete for employment.


A Disclosure Helpline

While Disclosure Scotland provides excellent technical advice through its helpline, there are a range of nuances for both employers and applicants that could be smoothed through practical support and a knowledgebase of good practice relating to intersecting problems.

Funding for Apex Scotland’s Disclosure Helpline was ceased some time ago and a void exists in the availability of such support. The MOJ support similar services for citizens in England and Wales and they are provided by NACRO and Unlock.

We recommend the resumption of a Scottish disclosure helpline with a remit to support citizens and employers. Apex Scotland and Recruit With Conviction would be happy to collaborate in providing such a service.

In most cases, a web-portal of information would be largely ineffective because the emotional needs relating to conviction disclosure anxiety are interwoven with complexities around simply what needs disclosed and when. Often individuals who seek support have not discussed their criminal conviction with anybody for years and may have never shared the information with their close family.




In relation to the Equality Impact Assessment, please tell us about any potential impacts, either positive or negative; you feel the amendments to legislation in this consultation document may have on any particular groups of people?


If communicated effectively, the right to withhold disclosure of protected convictions will have significantly positive impacts on people with convictions.

One third of men and one tenth of women in Scotland are labelled with a conviction marker and evidence from the MOJ/ DWP/ HMRC data joining project shows that even minor convictions have a long term negative impact on low pay and unemployment. Eight years after any conviction the median wage of people with convictions is around two thirds of the median wage of 24 year olds and conviction labels correlate with deeper deprivation for most minority ethnic groups and while women are significantly less likely to have criminal convictions, the median income of these women is around half the median income of 24 year olds in the UK. Beyond this, the data joining project provides data which suggests that around half of all unemployed people have at least one conviction.

Ongoing action research with a range of stakeholders by Recruit With Conviction consistently finds Conviction Disclosure Anxiety as a principle reason for people to deselect themselves from opportunities which ask for disclosure of convictions on applications. This is particularly true for many parents considering volunteering in school and other groups where their children participate.

Furthermore conscious and unconscious bias (relating to convictions) from selectors is inevitable and despite procedures to mitigate bias, training selectors is required and this self awareness transcends benefits to many other areas of equality.

Unconscious bias also has a multiplying effect where negative stereotypes intersect, for example a criminal record for somebody from a minority ethnic background or a female can be treated more harshly and in most cases a conviction legally be used to deselect that person.

Therefore the removal of clearly irrelevant convictions and communication of these rights will have a significant benefit on many groups.




In relation to the Equality Impact Assessment, please tell us what potential there may be within these amendments to legislation to advance equality of opportunity between different groups and to foster good relations between different groups?



With effective communication the amendments will improve equality of opportunity in regulated work. As described above, they can be particularly helpful for women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

However, there is an extreme deficit in knowledge on the part of career advisors, jobcentre plus staff, employability workers and other professionals who may support applicants. This problem and solution is described in more detail in the answer to question 1.

In terms of fostering good relations, the increasing criminalisation of “hate crime” is creating an increasing number of people who have particularly toxic conviction labels for low level offences such as breech of the peace.

This leaves many perpetrators of hate crime with a sense of injustice and inequality rather than the desired effect for improving community relations. Interventions using restorative justice methods as a diversion from prosecution are more likely to contribute towards community cohesion in most cases.

The toxicity of such convictions when disclosed, excludes opportunities, damages community relations and heightens perceptions of injustice. Consideration should be given to ways in which community cohesion can include people with such convictions.




What is unconscious bias?

Most people – men and women – hold unconscious biases about groups of people.

Depending on the discipline, unconscious biases can be referred to as; schemas, stereotypes, mental models, cognitive shortcuts, statistical discrimination, implicit associations and spontaneous trait reference.

It is the tendency of our minds to apply characteristics of groups (real or imagined) to our judgements about individual group members.

Recruit With Conviction workshops provide a safe environment for participants to discover their own unconscious bias and to learn how mental fatigue can lead to cognitive shortcuts and less objective decision making.

To book on to one of our workshops contact


Employer relationships and stopping crime

A criminal record is not a reliable risk marker because usually it has no relevance to the job. The vast majority of people with criminal records will never be convicted again, however starting work can also be a catalyst for stopping crime.

“You make me want to be a better man” – is the line used in a moment of truth for Melvin Udall, a deviant character played by Jack Nicholson. These words must have resonated with a million men as they reflected on their relationships which mattered most.

Many working people can describe a boss who caused them sleepless nights and another boss who become their hero. At times your relationship with a boss can have a bigger impact on your wellbeing than your relationship with a spouse. Employer burdens, needs and contributions should also be recognised and this relationship contribution has not been investigated in much desistance research.

Stopping crime is a personal process of building resilience in a number of ways. It largely relies on honest and assertive relationships – not aggression or manipulation.

The ability to get a job and keep it is an indicator of going straight. The goal of getting a job can be interwoven with altruistic aspirations such as “to make my Mum proud” or “to look after my family”. Additionally, the job applicant might think “If I had a job, then I’d never do crime” but employers often consider “the time since the last offence” as evidence that an individual has “gone straight”. Many other factors contribute to the lack of job opportunities, including recruiter bias and anxiety about the criminal record stereotype.

The direct correlation between sustained employment and reduced crime is indisputable. Timpson Ltd is an open minded employer of people from prison in the UK and former prisoners account for 10% of their workforce. In total they have employed about 400 people from prison and only 4 of them ever returned to custody. On this evidence, the return to custody rate of Timpson employees is about 50 times less than average.

However an MOJ report (2) using a much larger group of prisoners, shows that any period of PAYE employment in the year after prison only reduces re-offending by 9.4 percentage points.

While the Timpson Ltd evidence is not compared against a control group, their outstanding success compared against welfare to work programmes may have been supported by a number of factors.

  1. Careful job matching of the right candidate to the right job in the right location. This compares well against welfare to work programmes using a range of sanctions and aggressive techniques against vulnerable people. (Of course healthy and strong people who are coasting may need pushed to reach their potential but this is very different)
  2. Integrated practical resettlement support from Timpson Ltd.
  3. Criminal record disclosure to Timpsons creates a bond of trust between the employee and employer whereas non-disclosure consistently creates a nasty surprise for employers, when they invariably find out. This contributes significantly to job attrition for former prisoners compared to much more sustainable employment in Timpson.
  4. The support of a number of pro-social relationships which are encouraged within the culture of Timpson Ltd.

James Timpson CEO of Timpson Ltd, describes his prison recruits as “superstars” and he is rewarded by loyalty. The bond of trust between bosses and employees with convictions is common in many other workplaces too. Statements from former prisoners in other companies include, “he saved my life” and “if it was not for her, I’d be a totally different person”. Similarly employers often report extraordinary experiences and cite stories of outstanding professional relationships with former prisoners.

People with convictions have also at times been abused and bullied in workplaces to such an extent that their aspirations for change are damaged by someone who has made them feel worthless. Sometimes these jobs are completely mismatched against their skills and expectations. Mismatched employment is a poor outcome for for employers too and serve to perpetuate negative stereotypes.

Some relationships “make me want to be a better man” and some relationships can be damaging. The role of family, friends and neighbours can be helpful or harmful. Similarly, the right job is helpful but the wrong job is harmful, so let’s listen to employers and people with convictions and create solutions for sustainable employment which benefit everyone, including those employers which recruit with conviction.


  1. James Timpson Recruit With Conviction Video:
  2. Analysis of the impact of employment on re-offending following release from custody, using Propensity Score Matching: MOJ 2013

Widening Access to Education

The Scottish Government is preparing to set up a commission on widening access to Higher Education which will commence in March 2015. This follows commitments set out by Nicola Sturgeon in “One Scotland – Programme for Government” (1)

Talented children are born into deprivation or privilege without discrimination but adversity and opportunity for children are grossly uneven. The correlation between criminal histories and deprivation is therefore unsurprising.

There is a clear research gap regarding the extent to which criminal records are a barrier to Further or Higher Education and the commission on widening access should investigate this important factor as part of its remit. Full-time study is also an opportunity to create the conditions to stop offending and to put the cushion of time between convictions and applying for work.

1 in 10 women and 1 in 3 men in Scotland have a criminal record so this is not a marginal issue and our poorest neighbourhoods have a much greater density of people with convictions than the Scottish averages presented above.

While barriers to wider access are broader and more complex than one issue, quite simply any inclusion strategy is incomplete unless it considers the impact of previous convictions.

There are 2 distinct avenues which the commission should explore regarding barriers for people with convictions.

  1. The extent to which people with convictions are excluded by further or higher education institutions. (Criminal convictions with certain labels such as, fire-raising, hate crimes and sexual offences are particularly difficult to consider objectively and anecdotal evidence of very good practice and very poor practice in admissions has been presented)
  2. The extent to which people with convictions, deselect themselves from Further or Higher Education because they anticipate discrimination over their conviction or they deselect themselves due to anxiety about discussing their past. (Self de-selection is common when recruiters  request criminal history disclosure for employment)

While the commission has an opportunity to develop a strategic response, Recruit With Conviction seeks a more practical role through the development of academic circles of influence  in Scotland, comprising people who are interested in either of the following areas:

  • Improving the access to study for people with convictions.
  • Improving opportunities for employment or work placements for people with convictions in education institutions and their supply chains – Ultimately improved diversity in recruitment can support wider cultural changes in admissions.

If this appeals to you and you work in Further or Higher Education, then please sign up to the circle of influence on the following link


(1) One Scotland – Programme for Government

Employer Prison Events

The best recruiters know their own bias. People in prison are the most stigmatised and stereotyped individuals anywhere, so if you think you really do diversity, then test it! See the opportunities available when you “recruit with conviction” and come to a prison event.

Employers can tour prison workshops and training facilities  in HMP Barlinnie on 13th March 2015. Follow the link below to see a flyer and book a place.

Employment and Employers’ Fair Flyer

Recruit With Conviction also have another provisional date for an employer event in HMP Addiewell on 25th March 2015. For more information on HMP Addiewell contact

“Recognise yourself in he and she who are not like you and me” – Carlos_Fuentes


Recruitment in the Scottish Public Sector

Is the public sector in Scotland Recruiting With Conviction?

The public sector in Scotland is a diverse set of organisations ranging from very large NHS Trusts through to small agencies which employ only a handful of people.

They often have mature policies and procedures for the recruitment of people with convictions. Some organisations have even gone the extra mile in their community roles, for example, NHS Lothian are sector leaders with their socially responsible recruitment programme.  They implemented a strategy to increase recruitment opportunities for young people and vulnerable groups and enabled this through tailored Recruit With Conviction diversity workshops. By supporting first line managers and recruiters to recognise their unconscious bias towards the most stigmatising stereotypes relating to “offenders”, the workshops were able to unpick obstacles in wider diverse recruitment, providing solutions and empowerment to make good recruitment decisions and select staff from the widest possible pool of talent.

While many other public sector organisations have positive policy and procedures for the recruitment of people with convictions, they are not always effective because of the difference between authorisation and empowerment. Similarly, the monitoring of recruitment practice relating to people with convictions is rare, if it exists at all. However there are some diligent Human Resource professionals who are prepared to argue the case for recruiting with conviction.

While NHS Lothian is developing as a leader in socially responsible recruitment, there is anecdotal evidence about practice in other agencies where individuals are deselected automatically if they disclose convictions. In another case Recruit With Conviction successfully supported an individual to appeal de-selection from a desk based job in a public sector agency because he had one historic conviction relating to possession of one MDMA tablet. This conviction coincided with a time in his life when he was suffering bereavement.

But the public sector is not recruiting?

Reduced budgets and recruitment freezes in tandem with increased outsourcing mean that less public sector jobs are available and competition for these posts tends to be very high. The lack of availability of public sector jobs is accentuated by false assumptions by applicants that they will never be employed by the public sector because they have a criminal record or they consider the prospect of disclosure of convictions too embarrassing.

However a reduction in available opportunities does not diminish the need for good practice. Excellence in human resources is often developed in the public sector. Private sector professionals often ask how the public sector addresses such recruitment difficulties and human resource specialists easily move across sectors, so there is a bleed out effect for developments.

Given that the profile of people with convictions is so closely linked with deprivation profiles, we argue that unless barriers (to recruiting people with convictions) are addressed, then employers are only playing at the fringes of the diversity agenda. There is no place for this elephant in the room any more.

But it only affects a small number of people?

Analysis from the “2013 MoJ /DWP /HMRC data share”(1) evidences close correlation between people with any conviction and low pay, temporary employment and long term unemployment. Given that the research cohort of 4.3 million people represented about half of the population of people with convictions in RUK and 28% of people on job seekers allowance (JSA), we estimate that as many as 50% of people claiming JSA may have at least one criminal conviction. In contrast about one fifth of the working age population has at least one criminal conviction.

It is true that many more employability barriers exist but there are good reasons to start with the most difficult one first.



Universal Universities

Recruit With Conviction has been developing strong links with Universities since we were founded in 2012. We believe that Higher Education institutions have powerful levers for change.

We were delighted to speak at an event at University of Edinburgh in December “Should the University Employ Prisoners” and are now seeking to develop circles of influence in Scottish education. The University of Edinburgh produced a report of that event which is available on this link Universities and prisons events 4th December report (1) University of Edinburgh

If you are interested in finding our more about this please register below.

Subscribe to the Universities Circles of Influence

* indicates required

Open letter on Referendum votes for Prisoners

The directors of Recruit With Conviction support the Howard League Scotland and a number of leading figures from Scottish civic society in calling the Scottish Government to review of the blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting in the independence referendum.prisoner vote

Our request is pragmatic rather than political – restriction of voting rights does not deter criminal activity.

Voting is a responsibility as well as a privilege and therefore voting is an opportunity to engage in citizenship and reflection of the greater good – qualities which employers want.

Giving back responsibility is key to starting work and stopping crime.

The full text of the letter is on the link below and the signatories are:

Dr Oliver Aldridge MBBCh,DRCOG, MRCGPGPwSI
Addiction Medicine Specialist
Tam Baillie
Scotland’s Commissionerfor Children and Young People
Mark Bevan
ProgrammeDirector, Amnesty Scotland
Shami Chakrabarti
Director, Liberty
Andrew Coyle CMG
Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies,University of London, and former
prison governor
Mike Dailly
Principal Solicitor,Govan Law Centre

Andrew Deans
Member ofthe Scottish Youth Parliament, AngusNorth and Mearns
Mike Ewart
Chief Executive, Scottish Prison Service 2007‐2009
Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton
Convener, Church and Society Council, The Church of Scotland
Tom Halpin
Chief Executive, Sacro
Alison Hannah
Executive Director, Penal ReformInternational
Martin Johnstone
Chief Executive, Faith in Community Scotland
Tony Kelly
Kaliani Lyle
Scotland Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission
Juliet Lyon CBE
Director, Prison ReformTrust
Margaret Malloch
Senior Research Fellow, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research
Robin McAlpine
Director,Jimmy Reid Foundation
Isabel McCue
Chief Executive, TheatreNemo
Gill McIvor
Professor of Criminology,University of Stirling

Andrew McLellan
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland 2002‐2009
Fergus McNeill
Professor of Criminology and Social Work,University ofGlasgow
Jim Murdoch
Professor of Public Law,University ofGlasgow
Mike Nellis
Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice,University of
John ScottQC
Chair,Howard League for Penal Reform, Scotland
David Shrigley
Artist and adviser to Insight and Outlook,the Koestler Exhibition for
Scotland 2012
Morag Sievwright
Development Co-ordinator, Faith in Throughcare
Richard Sparks
Professor of Criminology,University of Edinburgh
Alec Spencer
Former prison governor and Director of Rehabilitation and Care, Scottish
Prison Service, and Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice,
University of Stirling
Alan Staff
Chief Executive, Apex Scotland
Ruth Stark
Manager, Scottish Association of Social Work
Cyrus Tata
Professor of Law and Criminal Justice,University of Strathclyde

Richard Thomson
Director, Recruit With Conviction
Jackie Tombs
Professorin Criminology and SocialJustice,Glasgow Caledonian
Robin Waterston
Clerk,Quakersin Scotland
Pete White
Co-ordinator, Positive Prison? Positive Futures

What is Recruit With Conviction?

What is Recruit With Conviction?

Recruit With Conviction is the national campaign to promote safe and effective recruitment of people with criminal records.

Our purpose

  • Business benefits from access to the untapped potential and talent which exists among people with convictions.
  • Community benefits from reduced crime.
  • Individuals benefit from the hope and opportunities that a job brings.

Recruit With Conviction consultants provide vast experience of business, criminal justice and employability support to provide a professional service within a tried and tested model which has been operating since 1998.

The experience of our consultants is transnational and includes work with FTSE 100 companies and public authorities.

The Recruit With Conviction model is more than an element Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy, it also provides you with a competitive advantage by fully embracing diversity and giving you access to a pool of talent which is overlooked by others.

Recruit With Conviction Ltd is a not for profit company registered in Scotland. Please use the feedback form below to get in touch.