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A new tool to help employers recruit ex-offenders has been launched

Unlock’s work with employers over many years has highlighted the significant business benefits of employing people with convictions

Unlock, the country’s leading charity for people with convictions, today launches a unique website to encourage and support companies to recruit people with criminal records.

Over 10.5 million people in the UK have a criminal record and many face stigma and discrimination when applying for work, despite having put the past behind them. Unlock’s work with employers over many years has highlighted the significant business benefits of employing people with convictions.

Yet recruiters often struggle to understand complex criminal record disclosure legislation and don’t know what they can and can’t do, with policies and processes that often discourage applicants. Although nine out of ten employers have said that they’re open to the idea of recruiting people with convictions, in practice less than 20% say they have knowingly done so.

The new website aims to deal with this by:

  1. Supporting employers in recruiting people with convictions
  2. Helping companies to deal with criminal records fairly
  3. Sharing good practice (such as Ban the Box)
  4. Providing free guidance and tools
  5. Showing what other employers are doing

Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said:

“There’s a talent pool of over 10.5 million people that many companies are overlooking. People with criminal records make good employees. This new website that we’re launching today helps employers to make sure they’re not missing out on the diverse skills and experience of people with criminal records.

“With over 750,000 unfilled job vacancies in the UK, it makes business sense to recruit people with convictions. There are many examples of companies that take a positive approach, such as Timpson, Greggs and Virgin Trains. Campaigns like Ban the Box, which calls on employers to remove the tick-box question about criminal records, are having a real impact too.

“The announcement by David Cameron in February of the civil service banning the box in their recruitment process shows the tide is beginning to turn. There is still stigma surrounding “ex-offenders” that prevents many companies from getting involved, yet two-thirds of employers say that recruiting people with convictions has had a positive impact on their corporate reputation. One aim of Unlock’s new website is to share good practice and show what positive steps employers are taking to help inspire other companies.

“It’s easy to overlook how complex recruitment processes can be. Criminal record disclosure processes are confusing for applicants and companies alike. Most employers are not experts in rehabilitation legislation, which has had significant changes in recent years – there are many myths out there. We regularly get enquiries from companies that are trying to get their heads around what they can and can’t do.

“That’s why Unlock has produced a range of free, accurate and reliable guidance and tools to help companies develop, adopt and follow inclusive, fair and lawful policies and practices in the recruitment and retention of people with criminal records. We’re basing this work on ten principles of fair chance recruitment that encourage employers to recruit people with convictions and deal with criminal records fairly.”

Roisin Currie, Group People Director at Greggs and Chair of the Employers’ Forum of Reducing Reoffending, said:

“At Greggs we believe that, by not overlooking any potential employees because of their past, we can select the right person and develop them to their full potential. Our retention rates for ex-offenders via our Fresh Start programme in 2015 is 78%, which we are very proud of. Unlock’s website for employers has been very helpful to us in improving our own approach to recruiting people with convictions, and we encourage other employers to make use of the practical advice and resources it has to offer.”

Nicola Inge, Campaign Manager at Business in the Community, said:

“At Business in the Community we work closely with our member companies to open up employment opportunities for ex-offenders through our Ban the Box campaign, so we know first-hand what questions businesses need to answer to do this most effectively. Unlock’s Recruit! website answers all these questions and more. With practical advice, news and resources, Recruit! is a one-stop-shop for employers who are looking to develop an open and inclusive recruitment practice that provides a fair chance for ex-offenders.”

David, who was given a community order 8 years ago for an offence involving violence, said:

“It’s difficult applying for jobs when you continuously get rejected because of something you did many years ago. I’m a skilled designer and since my conviction I’ve got a degree, yet most employers don’t look beyond that tick-box on the application form. Even though my record is now spent, meaning I don’t need to disclose it for most jobs, there’s still many employers that try to get me to disclose. That’s why I’m really keen to raise awareness of Unlock’s website for employers – there are lots of employers that are breaching the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and it’s important that companies make sure they get this right.”

Sarah, who was given a prison sentence for stealing from her employer 5 years ago, said:

“Going into prison didn’t mean that I lost any of the skills or experience I’d gained before my conviction. Yet, when I was released, every time I applied for a job it seemed the employer was more interested in my criminal record. I never heard back from any jobs where I’d declared I had convictions. Every time I went for an interview, I was worrying so much about disclosing that it impacted how well I came across. I wish employers could recognise how having a criminal record doesn’t make you unemployable, and that there’s a lot of skills and experiences that could benefit their business if they were just more open-minded in the way they recruit. Eventually, I was fortunate in finding an employer that had removed the tick-box and had the perfect job for me. I was able to sell myself before they asked me about my record at the offer stage. Once they heard what I’d done since my prison sentence, they didn’t let my convictions get in the way.”

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