Ex-offenders and employment

Organisations are becoming increasingly wary about employing ex-offenders. They overlook applications from individuals with a criminal history when recruiting staff due to the stigma attached to having a criminal record. 

This is making it considerably more challenging for ex-offenders to rehabilitate successfully and get on with their lives. However, new initiatives are helping to give individuals a better chance at securing a job.

Recruitment Barriers and Statistics

Many people with convictions find it challenging to obtain work, and, according to government figures, only 26.5% of ex-prisoners enter employment after being released from prison.

A YouGov survey 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. 

According to gov.uk, just 17% of ex-offenders secured a job within a year of release. Even though 86% of those employing ex-offenders rate them as “good at their job”.

Employing ex-offenders reflects well on the business, too, with 81% of consumers stating that companies who employ ex-offenders positively contribute to society. In addition, the employers themselves said that it enhanced their reputation and helped them win new contracts.

One problem is that application forms can automatically filter ex-offenders from the conviction tick box. This seems somewhat unjustified; everyone deserves a fair chance to work. While it is understandable that some ex-offenders are not suitable for specific roles, many others are unfairly overlooked because of their past.

How Long Does a Criminal Record Last?

Convictions and cautions remain within the Police National Computer until an ex-offender reaches 100 years of age; however, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have to disclose these crimes to potential employers. 

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 means that a crime is likely to be deemed ‘spent’ eventually, which means it won’t be highlighted via a basic DBS check.

However, if the role requires a standard or enhanced check, the candidate may need to disclose any spent convictions; unless it has been filtered out.

Getting a Job With a Criminal Record – Advice To Candidates

Over 11 million people in the UK have a criminal record check, which represents a large talent pool that many employers are missing out on. Still, they continue to opt for applicants that do not hold a criminal record.

However, many organisations are trying to help former offenders get back into work.

One company celebrated for its hiring of ex-offenders is Nacro. Nacro is a social justice charity supporting people with criminal convictions and offers a free helpline to employers seeking advice on dealing with employees and criminal records. 

With the rise in unfilled job vacancies, Nacro encourages employers to see that these individuals are part of a solution to the shortage of skilled staff and not a hindrance.

Other big UK companies known to hire ex-offenders are:

  • Timpson
  • Co-Op
  • DHL
  • Greggs
  • Boots the Chemist
  • Greene King
  • Iceland
  • Tesco
  • Pets at Home

And many more.

In addition, a ‘Ban the Box’ campaign is 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.

What Jobs Can’t You Do With A Criminal Record?

Depending on the nature of the crime you were convicted of, there are some roles that you may not be suitable to apply for. These include:

  • Roles where you will be working with vulnerable adults or children.
  • Positions within law enforcement, private security work, national security or the prison service.
  • The navy, air force or military.
  • Senior positions within finance and banking.
  • Certain positions within the healthcare, pharmaceutical or legal sector.

Advice For Employers

As advised under section 122 of the Police Act 1997, all organisations should have an ex-offenders policy to ensure that any job applicant with 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.

Unless an applicant has been barred from working with vulnerable adults or children, an ex-offender should not be excluded from working for certain organisations or even volunteering in specific job areas. It is, in fact, illegal to discriminate against an applicant based on 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:

  1. Is the offence relevant to the role?
  2. How long has it been since the offence occurred?
  3. 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.

If you would like some more information surrounding this issue, please contact us today on 0333 777 8575.