List Of Companies That Hire Ex-Offenders UK

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated March 20, 2023

Finding work when you have a criminal record poses is challenging. From knowing how to disclose your criminal history to facing stigma, there’s a lot to contend with. Don’t lose hope, though. An increasing number of employers are now seeing the benefits of employing ex-offenders and are opening their doors. If you’re trying to find employment after prison, we’ve compiled a list of companies that hire ex-offenders UK.

Before we dive into our list of the top six ex-offender-friendly employers in the UK, let’s first look at some interesting stats about ex-offender employment.


The Current State Of Ex-Offender Employment In The UK

Over 11 million people in the UK have a criminal record. And of that 11 million, less than 10% go to prison. 

In terms of the nature of the crime, in June 2018, 71% of people serving a prison sentence were incarcerated for non-violent offences.

According to data from the Ministry of Justice, 27% of working-age adults in the UK have a criminal conviction. That’s a considerable part of the population and a largely untapped talent pool.

And this talent pool isn’t going unnoticed by businesses. 

More and more employers are now actively seeking to employ people with a criminal record. This is good news if you’re currently looking for ​​jobs for ex-prisoners. As the number of inclusive employers continues to rise, you can feel more confident about disclosing your criminal history and explaining gaps on your CV.


The RoundUp: A List Of Companies That Hire Ex-Offenders UK

We’ve rounded up a list of companies that hire ex-offenders in the UK. These six inclusive employers welcome ex-prisoners and recognise their potential.

1.    Tesco

Supermarket giant Tesco is often touted as a great place to work. As an employer, it offers staff excellent career development opportunities, including training. Moreover, it has an inclusive recruitment policy that employs ex-offenders.

Tesco takes its inclusive policy seriously, partnering with the UK prison service to provide job opportunities to people currently in custody. As such, it is one of the top employers of ex-offenders on our list. 

Tesco is one of your best bets if you’re looking for ex-offender jobs. As Tesco is such a large organisation, there’s a wide range of roles on offer. These include jobs on the shop floor, in the warehouse, in the office, and in the delivery team.


Search for jobs for ex-offenders UK →


2.    Virgin Group

Sir Richard Branson is something of a living legend in the UK. The Virgin Group CEO has made a splash over the years with his forward-thinking approach to hiring and employee engagement. 

Unsurprisingly, Branson was one of the pioneers of employing ex-prisoners. In 2011, he spoke up about the importance of second chances and how he could have ended up in prison over importing records and tax issues.

The Virgin Group now actively promotes locally recruiting people with criminal convictions, in custody, and working towards release. He continues to speak out about the benefits of hiring ex-prisoners.

“Employers need to be aware of the positives of taking on people who have been in prison. Our experience shows that people from prison, if properly selected, will prove to be just as reliable as recruits who come from elsewhere. It is their personality that matters most.”

–Sir Richard Branson, CEO Virgin group of companies


3. Timpson

Timpson is a leader in retail service and one of the top employers of ex-offenders. In fact, the retail giant employs more prison leavers than any other company. Not only does it employ people with criminal records, but it also actively supports other employers recruit ex-prisoners too.

Timpson shows its commitment to hiring ex-offenders by investing in training. It provides training workshops in various UK prisons, offering successful trainees a job in one of its shops. Here’s what the CEO of Timpson says about ex-offender recruitment. 

“Employment is a key factor in helping people to live crime-free lives. It has been proven that if people have somewhere to live, a support network and a full-time job, their chance of re-offending are greatly reduced.”

– James Timpson OBE, CEO Timpson and Chair of the Employers’ Forum for Reducing Reoffending


Search Timpson careers →


4. Boots the Chemist

Iconic British brand Boots is a founding member of ‘Ban the Box’ in the UK. Ban the box encourages UK employers to practice fair chance recruitment practices, thus helping the formerly incarcerated get back to work.

As part of the campaign, Ban the Box asks employers to remove the dreaded tick box in job application forms. This means that employers can only ask about candidates’ criminal history further along the hiring process.

Boots began by employing ten people with criminal convictions for roles in the warehouse. Since then, it has expanded its recruitment efforts, hiring people with convictions for roles in every area of the business.

Boots is a long-standing advocate for fairer recruitment practices and more job opportunities for ex-offenders. This is what the Executive Vice President had to say about ex-offender employment.

“People offend for a variety of complex reasons. The most powerful thing that employers can do is help to create a second chance for offenders, help them enter employment and get their lives back on track.”


– Marco Pagni – Boots the Chemist


You may also be interested in ?  Top jobs for ex-offenders


5. Pret a Manger

Another famous British brand, Pret a Manger (also known as Pret), is a chain sandwich store known for its delicious food and inclusive hiring practices. 

Pret has a long history of supporting ex-prisoners looking for employment. It runs a scheme that gives people with criminal convictions or experiencing homelessness a three-month work placement in one of its stores. 

If the applicant successfully completes the placement, they are usually offered a full-time job in the company. This placement is open to 70 people every year.


6. Greggs

Greggs isn’t just known for its tasty pies. It has also been working closely with ex-offenders since 2010. This relationship started when it visited women’s prisons across the UK to develop their employability skills.

Following the success of this initiative, it has become a leading advocate for employing ex-offenders. According to Greggs, from its experience, employees with criminal records tend to be the most loyal workers. As a result, they regularly offer job opportunities to ex-prisoners.

Greggs recently joined the likes of TalkTalk and entered a UK Government scheme that connects employers with prisons to provide advice on job skills. Businesses that sign up for the scheme will participate in “helping governors to ensure that offenders are job-ready when they walk through the prison gate”.


7.   The Co-op

The Co-op is another top employer of ex-offenders. Over the years, it has shown its commitment to getting ex-prisoners back to work by providing financial education for inmates in UK prisons. It also supports people being released from prison by helping them set up a bank account, removing a common obstacle to finding employment.

On top of this, the Co-op offers a broad array of job opportunities for people with a criminal record.


8. Compass Group

Compass group works across multiple sectors, including healthcare, education, food services, and leisure. It is a leading employer of ex-offenders, upholding fair chance recruitment practices.

Compass Group was one of a group of employers that wrote an open letter to the Financial Times outlining its positive experience of hiring ex-offenders. In doing so, it showed its support for getting people with convictions back into the workforce.


9. Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer is another retail giant that operates an inclusive recruitment policy. On top of employing ex-offenders, it has spoken publicly about the positive impact its inclusive recruitment policies have had on existing staff:

“the morale and motivation of their existing staff, without a criminal record, increased following amendments to their recruitment policies to include people with convictions”.

– Marks & Spencer spokesperson


10. The National Grid

The National Grid is a British multinational electricity and gas utility company with its HQ in London. The company invests a lot in people with convictions, particularly young offenders.

Its Young Offender Programme runs in 22 prisons across the UK, providing training and employment for people are they are released from prison. On top of this, The National Grid acts as an agency for over 80 other businesses to connect young offenders with job opportunities.


Search ex-offender jobs in London →


Honourable mentions

The list of companies that hire ex-offenders in the UK is extensive, but we only have room for 10. 

Here are some other inclusive employers that hire ex-offenders in the UK.

  • Iceland
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Poundland
  • Trafford Housing Trust
  • ESH Group
  • Interserve
  • Pets at Home
  • Ringway
  • Viridor
  • Home Group
  • Enterprise
  • Currie & Brown
  • Lend Lease
  • Matrix APA Product Design 


And let’s wrap up with a recent quote from the human resources director of the architecture firm Styles and Wood Group:

“Finding stable employment is widely recognised as a contributing factor to the successful rehabilitation of ex-offenders. Industry must step up and accept their role in the process. We can’t simply exclude 17% of the UK population from the recruitment process on the basis that they have a criminal record.”

– Karen Morley, Human Resources Director, Styles and Wood Group 


Additional reading ? Getting a job after prison using the skills you learned


FAQs: Finding A Job As An Ex-Offender In The UK

Now you have a list of companies that hire ex-offenders UK, let’s wrap up by answering the most common questions about ex-offender employment.

1. Do I have to disclose my criminal history to my employer?

In most cases, you’re only obliged to disclose your criminal record if you are asked directly by an employer. Of course, the majority of employers will conduct a criminal record check as part of the hiring process. Therefore, it is best to disclose this information yourself rather than having a potential employer find out themselves.


2. When should I disclose my criminal history?

While there’s no specific time in the recruitment process, the earlier, the better. We recommend disclosing your criminal record in person during the interview process. This way, employers have a chance to get to know you a bit before they receive the information. But, at the same time, it’s early enough in the process to avoid wasting your or the employer’s time. 


3. What’s the best way to disclose my criminal history?

Speaking to employers in person can often be the most effective way to handle the conversation. The employer can hear your side of the story and see that you have learned a valuable lesson from your time in prison.

That said, some people choose to reveal this information in their cover letter or CV to explain employment gaps. This works well if you are applying to an ex-offender-friendly company like the ones on our list.

Of course, some companies may ask you if you have a criminal record in the job application. In this case, all you can do is tick the box.


Key Takeaways: How To Find Ex-offender-Friendly Employers UK

Having a criminal conviction doesn’t have to be the end of your career. An increasing number of top employers are recognising the benefits of employing ex-offenders and transforming their recruitment practices. This spells good news for ex-offenders, offering more opportunities to start a new career after being incarcerated. With leading businesses, such as Tesco, Boots, and Greggs spearheading inclusive hiring practices, there are more jobs for ex-offenders than ever before.

Check out our ex-offenders job board for the latest opportunities near you.

Are you an employer of ex-offenders or considering hiring a formerly incarcerated worker? Our experts at Refreshing a Career can give you advice on ex-offender employment. Here are just some of the services we offer:

Give us a call on 03458724501 or drop us an email at to learn more about our bespoke packages. 

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Last Updated: Friday January 20 2023
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