This section features positive case studies of employers who actively recruit people with convictions. The aim of this section is to showcase examples of good practice and encourage other employers to do the same.
- We post positive case studies (some of which might not appear on this page – for example, if we don’t identify the employer).
- A range of employers have banned the box including Barclays, Boots, and the Civil service.
- A number of large and high profile employers are members of the Employers’ Forum for Reducing Reoffending
- Many employers are involved in the work we support.
HSS recognise that colleagues recruited from prison may need particular forms of support when they start work, and during their employment. The prospect of starting employment during or soon after a custodial sentence can be daunting, so HSS encourage managers to have regular catch ups with these colleagues, and to be aware of particular needs – such as allowing more time to show them how to use IT systems, to providing emotional support for adapting to life outside prison.
HSS also keep in contact with organisations who can provide specialist help and advice, such as Mind the Gap, Recycling Lives, A Fairer Chance and St Giles Trust. The HR team are always on hand to liaise directly with colleagues and their managers to help make the transition as easy as possible, and ensure appropriate support is offered to colleagues wherever necessary.
“We want every colleague to have a positive start with our business, so if they choose to tell their team about their past that’s entirely up to them, but we would never disclose those details on their behalf. As far as we’re concerned, we are just focussed on attracting the best people to our business, those who have the right skill sets and attitude, and can make a really positive contribution.”
Lisa Crawford, Head of Human Resources, 2019
HSS don’t ask about criminal convictions on their application form. They shortlist applicants based on their skills and experience and only ask about criminal records when applicants are invited to interview.
Find out more about HSS
Read the latest posts about HSS
“With almost 1,700 shops and over 19,500 employees who serve millions of customers each week, Greggs is the UK’s leading bakery food-on-the-go retailer
“Over the last few years Greggs have been working hard to recognise the hidden talent in people who are determined to find work in the face of significant personal challenges.
“We offer support by providing interviews, work placements and educational employability sessions to help participants to build the skills, confidence and recent experience needed to find work, as well as giving talks at employability events about what it is like to work for Greggs.
“We believe that by not overlooking any potential employees because of their past, we can select the right person for Greggs and develop them to their full potential.
“Our overall objective is to maintain sustainable employment to the candidates that we support. Our retention rates for ex-offenders via Fresh Start during 2015 is 78%, which we are very proud of”
Greggs have a question about convictions on their application form. It’s clearly worded and refers people to guidance on how to find out if their conviction is unspent.
We don’t think any employer needs to ask about convictions at application stage. We know it puts people off applying because they think they won’t stand a chance. This is a shame given the work Greggs have done to give people a second chance. We have asked Greggs if they would consider removing this, and we’ll let you know what they say.
Find out more about the work inclusion programmes at Greggs.
Read the latest posts about Greggs.
Timpson ask about criminal convictions on their application form. As an employer, they are well-known for recruiting people with convictions, so this section is less likely to put people off applying. They make it clear that only unspent convictions need to be disclosed, and they refer to our disclosure calculator for help in working this out. However, Timpsons don’t accept applications from people with convictions for sexual offences.
Read the latest posts about Timpson.
Freshfields request information about unspent convictions once a job offer has been made. Convictions are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The assessment and consideration of criminal convictions, focusing on the journey travelled by the individual since the crime was committed, is handled by the HR team at the same time as pre-employment checks. Freshfields publicise their fairer recruitment policy on their website.
Below is an article by Will Lawes, Senior Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer from 2011-2015 (also available on their website)
Each and every one of us has made a mistake of some sort of which we regret. The vast majority of us can make amends and move on quickly. But life is not so simple for those who make mistakes that result in criminal convictions. There are 10 million of us in the UK for whom that is true. How many more of us could have been in this group, but have just not been caught or been lucky enough to escape with a warning?
The biggest obstacle by far faced by those with a criminal record is joining or coming back into the work force.
Far too many capable people are simply being automatically slashed from shortlists for roles that match their skills because employers fear they pose a risk to their business. They are not even given the chance to explain the background to their conviction or demonstrate their capability to do the job. We all intellectually want ex-offenders to move on from their past and start contributing to society. But are we actually prepared to give them a chance?
Less than 10 per cent of businesses in the UK admit to hiring ex-offenders. The irony, though, is that three quarters of employers who do, say they are just as trustworthy [and reliable] as other employees – or even more so (Reed). People that have faced the biggest barriers in the world of work go the extra mile to succeed. They tend to stay in their job for longer, have a strong commitment and lower rates of absenteeism. Not only can they be great employees, but giving them the dignity of a job and the security of a pay cheque is proven to reduce the route of re-offending by 33-50% (Social Exclusion Unit).
We at Freshfields believe it is hugely important to give those shackled by their past or suffering in the present the chance to make a difference to their lives, be they ex-offenders, homeless, lone parents or long-term unemployed. By ignoring their skills, we waste a huge talent pool – and also restrict our business’ appeal to the communities in which we work.
Our experience is that when we’ve hired people from disadvantaged groups, they become valued employees.
That’s why, like growing numbers of British firms across an array of different sectors, we’re proud supporters of the See Potential campaign. We’re pleased to join Sir Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden and the CEOs of firms like Hyundai, EY, TM Lewin, Fujitsu and M&S and commit to the cause.
We were the first law firm in Britain to remove the criminal record disclosure box from job application forms in support of Ban the Box campaign instigated by Business in the Community (BITC). We are now leading proponents of the campaign – encouraging employers to assess candidates on their skills and abilities first and their past second. We only consider a conviction – and whether it actually matters to or excludes someone from the role – once we’ve selected them for a job.
Since 2001 we’ve taken over 300 people from disadvantaged backgrounds for work experience through Ready for Work programme that we run in partnership with BITC and we’ve gone on to employ a number of them permanently.
At Freshfields, we value the fresh perspectives, creative ideas and connections that flow from bringing together people with diverse backgrounds. Creating an inclusive and supportive environment in which all can flourish is crucial to attracting the very best to join our firm.
We haven’t changed our recruitment policy on ex-offenders only because it’s fairer to them or good for society as a whole. We did it because we also believe it’s good for our business. We are now tapping into a wider pool of talented, motivated and loyal workers, which no forward-thinking business can afford to ignore. By looking beyond the past of those who apply to join our firm we can build a better future for them and us.
Don’t just believe us: hear it from someone we have helped. ‘The Ready for Work programme changed my life. It escalated me to heights I could never have reached through my own efforts and has allowed me for the first time ever to achieve my full potential in my personal life and in my working life.’
We all make mistakes. I’ve had a few myself. And I believe people have the right to the opportunity to turn their lives around.
Business must become a strong advocate for rehabilitation. It makes perfect sense, as it increases the talent pool, it lowers the price tag of re-offending, it nurtures entrepreneurial spirit, and it contributes to safer communities.”
Richard Branson, in a video on the Evening Standard website
Virgin Trains are signed up to the Ban the Box campaign. On their application form, they have a section explaining this (see a copy below) so applicants know what they’ll be expected to disclose and when.
We don’t know if Virgin Trains have blanket bans on offence types.
Virgin Trains plans to employ more, says Richard Branson, and the plan is to reach 10% of the workforce in the years to come. “We have started conversations with the Virgin businesses to encourage employing ex-offenders as part of their diversity and inclusion agenda, and I’d like to see openness across all job categories where we can legally hire ex-offenders,” he says. “But this must be a structured process, and I’m happy to see that Virgin Trains are working on relevant guidance that we can share with the other businesses.”
In July 2016, Virgin Trains launched a toolkit to help other businesses.
The toolkit talks through Virgin Trains’ experience as an employer, which has been quite focused on the specific programme they have and working directly with prisons and probation areas through this programme. There’s some useful advice for other businesses thinking about doing something similar, alongside their broader mainstream recruitment methods where people with convictions are included and treated fairly.
Read the latest posts about Virgin Trains.
There are some important observations about their application forms:
- They continue to ask about criminal records on their application form.
- The versions below show that they ask slightly different questions depending on whether applicants are applying to be a team member or a manager.
- They don’t make it clear what, if any, impact ticking ‘yes’ at the application stage will have on applicants.
- On the manager’s application form, this question is under the ‘One last thing…’ section. Ordinary use of this phrase would suggest any information here will have a negative impact.
- There are no links to guidance on how applicants can find out the answer to the question.
“We want a committed team, with passion and the right knowledge. We’ve found ex-offenders deliver for Halfords”
Jill McDonald, CEO, Halfords
Their online application form doesn’t have any questions about criminal records.
“We’ve set up a full cycle mechanic training facility inside Onley Prison near Rugby and we’re training prisoners to be professional cycle mechanics. We will be offering the very best candidates the opportunity to become full-time Halfords colleagues. This will help them to rebuild their lives following their sentences and it will provide us with fully trained and committed colleagues.”
Cook are a Kent-based company that cook and sell frozen ready meals. They have 84 shops located across the country.
In the video below, Cook talk about their approach towards recruiting people with criminal records. Thanks to Tim Cronin (who produced the film) for giving us permission to publish this here.
The video below is from a “Discovering Potential” event, held in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions. Rosie Brown from Cook talks about what they’ve been doing.
Their online application form doesn’t have any questions about criminal records.
The extract below features in our guidance on asking about criminal records.
In order to ban the box, Ricoh carried out a review of their recruitment practices, taking into consideration their existing security policies and a desire to recruit fairly. As a result, the company revised its security policy for each role to ensure the appropriate assessment of risk is carried out, ranging from only basic employment checks for some roles to in-depth checks for others, according to customer requirements. Applicants are only asked about criminal convictions at the stage of being offered a job, allowing Ricoh to judge a candidate’s suitability for a role before taking into account any convictions.
As featured in BITC’s How to Ban the Box
Read the latest posts about Ricoh.