Why we’ve launched this website

This article covers today’s launch of this site and links back to the press release, also published today. Find out more about the launch.

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 this new website is to share good practice and show what positive steps employers are taking to help inspire other companies.

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.  We also know that there is lots of bad practice, and there are legal implications for employers if they get it wrong. For example, taking into account spent convictions can be illegal, and carrying out the wrong level of criminal record check is a criminal offence. That’s why we’ve published a number of examples where we’ve worked with companies to improve their recruitment process, so that other employers can learn from their mistakes.

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 we’ve 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.

We’re excited about the months ahead. We’re planning to share more examples of good and bad practice, feature more employers, and produce more guidance based on the questions and issues that come to us.

There’s a lot of stigma and discrimination by employers towards people coming out of prison and those with a criminal record, and we know this gets in the way of the so-called ‘rehabilitation revolution’ that the government wants to see. It’s important that people are given education, training and skills, but if there are no employment opportunities at the end of it, it undermines the whole model. This new website comes at this issue from an employers’ perspective, starting from the basis that it’s important to recognise the huge talent pool that they might be overlooking and supporting them to make sure they’re not missing out.

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Christopher Stacey

  • Alex no mates

    I think this website is a step in the right direction, as someone with an unspent conviction who previously didn’t find it difficult to find work (i’m not fussy either, a job is a job) after my arrest, the whole world of work closed up and the world of living on JSA opened up and it’s not a life, JSA is supposed to be a temporary stop gap for people, but for those who have unspent convictions it can become like a trap. We all make mistakes in life, some of us are brave enough to take responsibility for those mistakes and commit to living a law abiding life, because maybe we have realized what is important. For those people, including myself, i believe they value the opportunity of employment as a spring board to sustainable living and a meaningful life. I don’t think it’s ‘clever’ or good business sense for employers to deprive someone of an opportunity to have a second chance in life, and often that employee will be extremely grateful and work very hard. Stigma is a huge issue as well. I think most employers and agencies err on the side of trying to be risk averse, or somehow try and nurture a sense of reputation management, and whilst that’s important to a degree, could they actually be ignoring some of the people who may turn out to be the most committed and determined to succeed? It’s so important to give people the opportunity to prove themselves in an interview and not help them trip over on the first hurdle just to save having a ‘difficult conversation’ it’s those difficult conversations that help us learn about ourselves and the people around us and also make us realize that sometimes out of darkness can come light. It’s wrong to assume that just because someone has an unspent conviction that happened two years ago, hasn’t made bold steps to better themselves, but with the unspent conviction box in the way, how would you even find out what the applicant has achieved since?