Organisations are becoming increasingly wary about employing ex-offenders and they are overlooked when recruiting staff due to the stigma that is attached to having a criminal record. However, new initiatives are helping to give individuals a chance after rehabilitating.
Many people with convictions find it difficult to obtain work and, according to government figures, only 26.5% of ex-prisoners enter employment after they have been been released from prison. A YouGov survey which was commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2016 found that 50 per cent of employers would choose not to employ ex-offenders deeming them unskilled and untrustworthy. Even application forms can automatically filter ex-offenders from the conviction tick box. This seems somewhat unjustified; organisations may be predominantly concerned for the reputation of their business, but every one deserves a fair chance to work. While it is understandable that some ex-offenders are not suitable for certain roles, many others are unfairly overlooked because of their past.
There are over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record check and this represents a large talent pool that many employers are missing out on, but they continue to opt for applicants that do not hold a criminal record.
However, there are a plethora of organisations that are trying to help former offenders get back into work. One of these companies is Nacro – a social justice charity – which supports people with criminal convictions, also offers a free helpline to employers seeking advice on how to deal with employees and criminal records. With the rise in unfilled job vacancies, Nacro encourage employers to see that these individuals are part of a solution to the shortage of skilled staff and are not hindrance to the work force.
A ‘Ban the Box’ campaign is also calling for UK employers to give former offenders a fair chance to apply for jobs by removing the tick box from application forms and asking about criminal convictions later on in the recruitment process.
Recruitment of ex-offenders policy
As advised under section 122 of the Police Act 1997, all organisations should have an ex-offenders policy in place to ensure that any job applicant that has a criminal history is treated fairly and without discrimination. The policy should also outline how a company compiles criminal record information from potential employees and how this information will be used. This can be given to DBS applicants at the outset of the recruitment process.
The policy should also aim to safeguard staff, clients, service users and visitors.
Receiving criminal record information
Unless an applicant has been barred form working with vulnerable adults or children, an ex-offender should not be excluded from working for certain organisations or even volunteering in specific job arenas. It is , in fact, illegal to discriminate against an applicant on the basis of their criminal record if it is not relevant, however, an employer will always need to think carefully about whether a candidate is suitable for a role or not based on their history.
The following questions should be considered when recruiting staff with a criminal background:
- is the offence relevant to the role?
- How long has it been since the offence occurred?
- what is the nature of the role?
Once these questions have been established, the organisation can then proceed and make the recruitment decision to hire them or not.
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