Getting Back To Work After Prison: Everything You Need To Know

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated February 20, 2023

Getting back to work after prison is one of the biggest challenges ex-offenders face. Having a criminal record can create employment barriers and knock your confidence. But, there are steps that ex-offenders can take to make themselves more employable and boost their chances of finding work after incarceration.

From networking to volunteering to upskilling, it’s never too late to rebuild your life and get back to work. 

We’re breaking down how to overcome common roadblocks and find work as an ex-offender.

Getting Back To Work After Prison: What You Need To Know

Are you an ex-offender looking for work in the UK? We’re here to help. 

We’ve answered the most common questions you need to know about finding work as an ex-offender in the UK.

Do I have to tell employers that I have a criminal record?

This depends on how serious your conviction was and the type of work you’re applying for. In most cases, it’s up to the ex-offender to decide if they want to disclose their criminal record. However, for severe offences 

According to Gov.UK, whether you need to disclose a conviction or caution from the police depends on the following factors:

  • If the employer asks during the interview or application process
  • When you were convicted
  • The type of punishment or sentence you got
  • The kind of criminal record check a potential employer requests

There’s no denying that telling a potential employer about your criminal record is a tough conversation. That said, it’s best to honest about it if it comes up during the recruitment process. Plenty of employers will still hire you as an ex-offender, so don’t be discouraged. 

What is a DBS Check?

It’s a background check conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).  A DBS check assesses if a person has any criminal history that would rule them out of working with vulnerable members of society, such as children. 

If you are on the barred list, a DBS check will show:

  • Spent convictions
  • Unspent cautions
  • Relevant information that may affect the recruitment process, even if no criminal conviction took place, e.g. forging documents or ethics violations

How difficult is finding a job after incarceration in the UK?

While it’s true that not all employers are comfortable hiring ex-offenders, many are. In fact, employers that hire ex-offenders have noticed significant business benefits.

For instance, more than two-fifths of employers say that employing ex-offenders has increased the diversity of their employees. What’s more, it has filled growing skills shortages, made the organisation more socially responsible, and boosted staff retention (ex-offenders tend to stay with employers for longer).

So, what do these statistics tell us? There are definitely challenges when it comes to getting back to work after prison, but there are also huge benefits for employers. 

Almost two-thirds of employers claim they are likely to employ an ex-offender, provided they are a good fit for the role. So, the best way to increase your chances is to look for retraining opportunities to develop your skills. And don’t forget to emphasise your transferable skills. Just because you didn’t build your skill set in a conventional job doesn’t mean those skills aren’t valuable for employers. 

What’s the best way of getting back to work after prison?

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find work right away, it can take time to get back on your feed. The best way to improve your chances of finding work as an ex-offender is to focus on your personal development. Start networking to find out about opportunities and companies willing to work with you, look into funding for training or upskilling, and consider volunteering to build some experience.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to find a pro-offender recruitment agency or job site. They offer career advice for ex-offenders, including assistance in finding apprenticeships and job placements.

Here’s a list of Pro-offender recruitment agencies in the UK:

  • BITC Ready for Work
  • Choice Support
  • Clean Sheet
  • Overlooked Talent
  • The Footprints Project
  • Working Chance

Our website is also a fantastic resource for job seekers with a criminal history. At Refreshing a Career, we understand the struggles ex-offenders go through as they try to re-enter the workforce. To make that transition as smooth as possible, our resource hub has a wealth of advice and information to help you get back to work after prison.

Our ex-offenders job board is packed with jobs for ex-offenders, and we work closely with the top employers of ex-offenders in the UK. Whether you want to get back to your previous job role or change careers completely, there are opportunities waiting for you.

Search our job board for ex-offenders →

Tips On Getting Back To Work After Prison

We’ve rounded up our top tips for ex-offenders trying to find work after incarceration.

1. Research the job market

Doing your homework is the best way to increase your chances of getting hired after prison. Let’s say you want to re-enter the workforce in your previous job role. In this case, you will want to research the industry to stay abreast of the latest insights, news, and trends. 

Using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and checking the blogs of industry leaders will help you to prepare for the application process and pinpoint any knowledge gaps you may need to close.

On the other hand, if you want to change careers completely, you may want to consider researching which sectors are thriving. Choosing to pursue an industry that is currently experiencing staff or skills shortages will greatly boost your chances of finding work.

In fact, many organisations have already started utilising the untapped talent pool of ex-offenders to fill positions.

As an ex-offender, working in a booming industry offers more job stability, better learning and development opportunities, and increased potential for career advancement.

To further boost your odds, research companies that hire ex-offenders, such as TESCO, Greggs, DHL, and Boots the Chemist.

Worth a read ? Best jobs for ex-offenders

2. Look into training opportunities

Training is often the key to finding a job role as an ex-offender. Not only do you build valuable job skills, but you show employers that you are invested in your future development.

Fortunately, the UK is home to a number of government-funded organisations that can provide ex-offenders with training opportunities. For instance, the New Futures Network (NFN).

NFN assists people with criminal records in finding employment after prison. The organisation works with employers of ex-offenders to connect them with suitable candidates. As part of the process, NFN and the employer come up with a set of criteria (education level, jail time, etc.) so that NFN can recommend the best-suited candidate.

Many employers may be entitled to government funding for training and employing ex-offenders. This improves your chances of finding opportunities.

Alternatively, you may want to consider finding your own training, such as online courses, night school, or getting a degree at the Open university.

3. Update your CV

Next, it’s time to update your CV. If you are worried about addressing CV gaps, we suggest creating a skills-based CV. In doing so, you shift the focus to what skills and life experiences you bring to the role rather than a chronological history of your employment record. 

Of course, it’s important to make sure that the skills on your CV are relevant to the role you’re applying for. You’ll also need to have examples of situations where you have demonstrated those skills.

Once you’ve decided on the layout of your CV, the next step is to add your skills, experience, and educational background. Opt for active words that express what you achieved rather than just a list of your responsibilities. 

Finally, when you have written your CV, make sure you proofread it carefully. Formatting issues and typos can make you seem unprofessional, so ask a friend or family member to have a final scan of it before you send it off.

A well-worded cover letter can grab recruiters’ attention and give them a better feel for your behaviours, values, and goals. Make sure you include your contact information so they can reach out for an interview.

4. Get interview-ready

You’ve researched the industry, updated your CV, and landed an interview. Now it’s time to prepare for the interview.

Follow our checklist below to nail the interview:

  • Research the company and position: Learn the company’s history, mission, and values. Review the job description and pick out keywords and skills to emphasise in the interview
  • Prepare yourself to explain your criminal history: Focus on what you learned from the experience and how you plan to move forward
  • Make yourself presentable: Get a haircut, find an appropriate outfit for the interview, trim your nails, and take care of your personal hygiene
  • Be confident: Don’t let your criminal record dishearten you. Instead, concentrate on the skills and experience you bring to the table. Reading our confidence tips can help.

Want to know more? Check out our job application tips.

Getting Back To Work After Prison: How We Can Help

Finding work as an ex-offender can be tough. From knowing your rights to learning how to explain your situation to potential employers, there’s a lot to consider. That said, with the right support and resources, there’s no reason why you can’t start a new career after your time in prison.

Working with experts, such as Refreshing a Career, can significantly improve your chances of overcoming employment barriers and landing your dream role.

Our resource hub has a wide range of guides on everything from preparing for your first interview to identifying the best sectors for ex-offender jobs.

Ready to start job hunting? Check our specialist job board for ex-offenders for the latest opportunities near you.

Support For Employers

If you’re an employer looking to reap the benefits of employing ex-offenders, you’re in the right place.  

Our employer resource hub is packed with guides on everything from funding to training to help you hire more ex-offenders. 

Be sure to browse our range of employer services, including advertising your roles on our dedicated career change jobs board.

For more information, give us a call at 0345 872 4501 or send an email to

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Last Updated: Friday August 25 2023
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