Disclosing criminal records to employers – Information site by charity Unlock | for people with criminal records

Practical information & advice


Disclosing to employers in brief ….

You only have to disclose your record to an employer if they ask you. Many employers ask at some point and if your convictions are unspent, you legally need to disclose them. If they ask you and you don’t disclose, they could later revoke the job offer or you could be dismissed. You could even face a further conviction.

Taken from our top 10 things to know

Read our latest news posts about disclosing criminal records to employers


Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to disclosing to employers.

What’s on my criminal record?

There are a number of ways that you can find out what’s on your criminal record. Useful links include:

What types of criminal record checks are there for employers to use?

There are three levels of criminal record check – basic, standard and enhanced. Which one an employer does will depend on the job role. Useful links include:

What will come back on my criminal record certificate?

This will depend on the type of check that is being done and whether your caution/conviction is spent (in the case of basic DBS checks) or eligible for filtering (for standard or enhanced DBS checks). Useful links include:

Do I actually have to tell an employer about my criminal record?

You only have to disclose your criminal record if you’re asked. Useful links include:

I’m not sure if I should disclose – what if they’ve not asked me?

If you’re aware that the employer will be doing a formal criminal record check or they could find out about your criminal record in some other way, then it might be best to disclose even if you haven’t been asked to. Useful links include:

When’s the best time to disclose to an employer?

There’s no set time in which you have to disclose. You may be led by the employers own recruitment process – for example they may tell you that there will be a discussion at the end of the formal interview. If this isn’t the case, it’s always best to disclose at the earliest opportunity. Useful links include:

I’m not sure how to disclose to an employer?

There are several ways to disclose and you should do whatever feels the most comfortable for you. Face to face seems to be the preferred choice of many employers and can often be very successful. Useful links include:

I’ve just spent a year in prison, how do I explain that on my CV?

You may need to redesign your CV to one which highlights your skills and abilities. If you worked whilst you were in prison, include the details of the job on your CV but don’t explicitly state it was a ‘prison job’. See the link below.

I want to work overseas – what are the rules on disclosure?

This will depend on the type of job you are applying for and the country you want to work in. See the link below.

If I receive a conviction whilst I’m in employment, do I have to disclose it?

You will need to check your contract of employment to see whether there is any clause included which requires you to disclose. See the link below.

Will my partners conviction cause me any problems getting a job?

Possibly but it will depend on the job you are applying for. See the link below.

I was convicted of an offence last year but maintain my innocence. How do I disclose to an employer something I didn’t do?

You’ve got a couple of options; continue to explain to an employer that you’re not guilty or accept responsibility for the conviction. See the link below.


Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on disclosing to employers. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions.


Our advice on eligibility for standard and enhanced DBS checks

  • If you’re applying for a job and are being asked to do a standard or enhanced DBS check, the onus should be on the employer to establish what makes the role eligible (with reference back to the legislation if necessary). The way the legislation is structured means that all positions are eligible for a basic DBS check. Only if the role meets certain requirements does it mean that it’s eligible for a standard or enhanced check.
  • If you don’t think the employer is entitled to a standard or enhanced DBS check, it’s normally only worth challenging this if all your convictions are spent. If any of your convictions are unspent, even if you are successful in your challenge, the employer will be entitled to require a basic DBS check.
  • If an employer insists on doing a standard or enhanced DBS check, and you have tried (or don’t feel able) to challenge them, you should consent to the check and then raise a query with the DBS through their eligibility query process.
  • If you’ve got police intelligence held about you, and you’re applying for an enhanced check, you shouldn’t disclose it unless you have reason to believe that it will be disclosed by the police (e.g. it’s particularly relevant to the role, or it’s been disclosed in the past in similar situations). Once the enhanced DBS check is returned to you, you will then know whether the police have decided to disclose it, and you can then make a decision as to whether to either (a) seek a review of the police force’s decision, or (b) disclose this information to the employer.


Our advice on disclosing convictions to employers

  • One of the most important things is to be sure what is on your police record – get a copy if you’re not sure.
  • There is rarely a right or wrong way to disclose your convictions. It is very much down to what you most feel comfortable with doing. This will depend on the details of your convictions, as well as the type of roles you are applying for.
  • So long as you are not disclosing more than what you need to (i.e. spent convictions for jobs not exempt from the ROA), it usually pays to be as honest and open as you can be, at the earliest (but also most appropriate) opportunity.
  • If you disclose, you should try to keep a written copy of what you have disclosed (providing the employer with that too) so that you have this in case it comes up again in the future.
  • If you’ve not got cautions or convictions, and only allegations or other ‘local police information’, it’s unlikely that it will come up on an enhanced DBS check. Now that DBS checks get sent to you, you will know whether or not the police has decided to disclose it.


Our advice on employer attitudes

  • There are very rarely any hard-and-fast rules about what employers must do in response to criminal records.
  • Generally, employers respond best when convictions are disclosed face-to-face, when you get a chance to explain the circumstances and try to alleviate any immediate concerns that they may have.
  • We regularly speak to people with convictions who have managed to find employment in all different sectors and professions. These cases continue to show us that there are many employers out there who are willing to give people a chance. The numbers of these types of employers may not be as high as we’d like, but it shows that you should never give up – if you continue trying, you will eventually find an employer than is willing to look beyond your conviction and employ you because they think that you are the best person for the job.

Frequently asked questions

Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get asked about disclosing to employers and the answers we generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s may be included in the information pages above.

Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to disclosing to employers that we refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.

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