What's the risk? Employing young adults with criminal convictions - full report

This scoping exercise outlines concerns held by employers about employing young adults with unspent criminal convictions, including examination of risk management processes and company case studies.
Key findings
  • Work in partnership and share the risk - voluntary organisations understand the particular barriers this group faces and make effective partners
  • Provide work experience opportunities to give young people experience of the world of work and help the employer to select suitable candidates
  • Consider the circumstances and personal journey of the individual, including a realistic assessment of risk
  • A standardised risk assessment with buy-in from probation, prisons and employers is still a distant prospect


Employers are constantly considering risk during recruitment – risk that a person may not fit with the culture of the organisation, risk that a person may not have the skills required to do their job, risk they may be unreliable and untrustworthy, etc.

When recruiting people with unspent criminal convictions, employers may perceive a risk of reoffending, risk of harm to self, others or society, negative reaction from existing workforce and risk of media or third parties uncovering the employment of an ex-offender and using this information to paint the company in a negative light. These risks are perceived to be significantly higher than when employing those without unspent criminal convictions although many of the above theoretically still apply (i.e. risk of harm to self, others or society and a negative reaction from colleagues to an individual).

The recommendations of this exercise hope to inform the debate about the perceived risk that young adults with unspent criminal convictions pose to potential employers. It also hopes to start to mitigate some of that risk by informing employers and third party referral partners of current practice. It also hopes to add to the growing body of evidence that suggests it is possible and desirable to provide employment opportunities to young people with unspent criminal convictions.