One year into the Ban the Box campaign; pioneering employers change their practice, but more must follow their lead

Business in the Community’s Ban the Box campaign, which Unlock actively supports, has reached its one year anniversary. It was launched in October 2013 in response to widespread and costly discrimination against people with convictions who are seeking work.

So far 24 employers, with a combined UK workforce of over 200,000, have committed to support the campaign. They assess jobseekers on their skills and abilities first, taking criminal convictions into account later in the recruitment process. This gives candidates equal opportunity to get to interview based on their competence for a role rather than excluding them because of an unrelated conviction. And employers benefit from a wider pool of diverse talent and contribute towards reducing the estimated £11 billion annual cost of re-offending.

But when 1 in 5 unemployed jobseekers has a criminal conviction, much more must be done to ensure that a tick box approach is not blocking them from work. Ban the Box isn’t about positive discrimination, or removing disclosure altogether. It is the first step that all responsible employers can take to level the playing field for people with convictions whilst still protecting themselves from risk.

“In the last year, we’ve seen real benefits to individuals who are simply trying to do the right thing by getting a job and becoming taxpayers. The employers who have signed up give people with convictions the confidence to apply” said Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock. “People with convictions simply want a fair chance to prove they’re the best person for the job, and that’s what Ban the Box is all about. And the end result is that employers have the best possible opportunity to recruit the best people. But people with convictions continue to face widespread blanket attitudes by many employers. That’s why, in the year ahead, we’ll be doing to more to encourage employers to support this campaign. We’ll also be doing more to work alongside employers to help them to develop and implement positive recruitment practices.”

“Business has a huge opportunity and responsibility to make the workplace more accessible to ex-offenders that simply want to contribute their skills to society” said Catherine Sermon, Employment Director, Business in the Community. “24 pioneering firms have banned the box and ask about convictions later in the recruitment process – sending the message that they value applicants’ skills and potential over past mistakes. If just 5% of UK private sector employers followed their lead, over a million roles would be more accessible to ex-offenders. Now is the time to dramatically improve the life chances for the huge numbers of people with convictions and make fair consideration of criminal convictions the norm.”

You can find out more information about Unlock’s support for employers here.

Visit www.bitc.org.uk/banthebox for more information about Ban the Box. Follow the campaign at #BantheBoxUK

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Christopher Stacey