Don’t take a tick box approach to your recruitment. Remove the criminal record tick box from application forms; ask about candidates’ criminal convictions later.

What is it?

Ban the Box calls on UK employers to create a fair opportunity for people with convictions to compete for jobs by removing the tick box from application forms and asking about criminal convictions later in the recruitment process.

The campaign is led by the charity Business in the Community (BITC). We’re promoting and supporting the campaign as part of our work to encourage fair chance recruitment practices by employers in the UK.

The latest news

On this site…

Read the latest posts about Ban the Box here.

On twitter….

Why Ban the Box?

Every employer wants to recruit the best person for the job. However, the way you deal with criminal records might be getting in the way of this. Does your organisation:

  1. Ask about criminal records on the application form?
  2. Operate a blanket exclusion for people with convictions?
  3. Expect recruiting managers to understand and respond to the disclosure of convictions without guidance?

If so, you are probably excluding people with convictions from roles that they may be qualified for and capable of doing.

By banning the box, you’re taking a more inclusive approach to recruitment!!!

“Ban the Box gives people the confidence and motivation to apply – they know they’ve got a chance because they will be judged on their skills, strengths and experience first, rather than their past”
David, a person with convictions employed by a Ban the Box employer

In a speech on prison reform in February 2016, David Cameron said:

There is one other area where I want us to be bold, and where we can use the latest thinking to make a difference – and that is to help prisoners find work on release.

There’s a simple problem: today, ex-offenders are often rejected for jobs outright because of their past. I want us to build a country where the shame of prior convictions doesn’t necessarily hold them back from working and providing for their families.

Of course, I want businesses and organisations to know who they are interviewing. If a conviction is ‘unspent’, they need to know about it and make the right decision for that business.

But here’s my question: should offenders have to declare it up-front, before the first sift of CVs – before they’ve been able to state their case? Or might this be done a bit later, at interview stage or before an actual offer of work is made?

They’ve done it in America – it’s called ‘ban the box’- and I want to work with businesses, including the many who’ve already signed up to the Business in the Community campaign, to see if we can do this here.

And because I believe in leading by example, I can announce today that every part of the Civil Service will be ‘banning the box’ in these initial recruitment stages. David Cameron, Prime Minister

What’s wrong with the box?

  • It makes it difficult for applicants to get past the initial sift as it’s often used to screen applicants
  • There’s no opportunity to contextualise or to explain
  • People are put off applying, so you’ll miss out on potential applicants
  • It can lead to indirect discrimination, as some groups are disproportionately affected by criminal records
  • No employer legally has to ask about criminal records on application

Interactive video

Take a look at an interactive video (although please note that it plays automatically when you open the page).

Why is it important?

Removing the tick box takes away the opportunity for employers to immediately judge an applicant because they have a criminal record. Instead, they see their suitability for the role first.

The campaign has had success in the USA, led there by the National Employment Law Project. In the city of Minneapolis, where the City Council banned the box, 57.4% of applicants with convictions in the last seven years were hired (2007-08), compared to just 5.7% hired before the box was removed (2004-6).

Removing a tick box is not about increasing risk or changing job specifications. It’s about benefiting the business by recruiting from a wider pool, not discouraging applicants, and only considering criminal convictions where they are relevant to a specific role.

Under the Employment Practices Code (published by the Information Commissioners Office, which upholds data protection legislation), you should only collect ‘sensitive data’ (which covers criminal records) when necessary. Section 1.2.5 of the Code states that you should:

“remove any questions about sensitive data that do not have to be asked at the initial application stage”.

Who has banned the box?

Accenture, Bristol City Council, Boots, Carillion, Eversheds, Land Securities, Linklaters, Ricoh and Veolia have banned the box.

See the full list of employers who have banned the box
Boots have led the way in the retail sector, championing the campaign with their supply chain.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP have shown that regulated industries can do this too, and now ask about convictions after offer of employment.

Unlock’s approach as an employer

Our approach to recruitment

Unlock is committed to fair recruitment and the inclusion of applicants with criminal records. It is essential that people do not face unfair discrimination in any role within the charity, whether paid or voluntary. For that reason, we do not use criminal records to exclude people.

We only ask about criminal records if they are relevant to the role. As an organisation that actively recruits volunteers, staff and trustees with convictions, we have considered the relevance of criminal records in relation to the various roles within the charity. The relevance varies depending on the role. For our current operations, this includes where the role is defined as a ‘peer delivered’ role, and where it is a regulatory requirement. Our policy sets out more detail on how we do this.

Why we joined the campaign

“We know that many people with a criminal record see “the box” and are discouraged from applying. For those that tick the box, we know many employers use this as part of their initial sift, meaning they’re missing out on potentially suitable candidates. We believe that, by banning the box, employers are able to give people with convictions a better opportunity to compete for jobs on a level playing field.”
Christopher Stacey, Co-director, Unlock

Don’t have a tick box? Sign up!

If you don’t have a tick box, you can sign up to the Ban the Box campaign.

Get in touch with us and we’ll talk you through the next steps.

Alternatively, if you have all the information to hand, you can sign your company up to the campaign online.

Do have a tick box? Get advice and support

If you’re looking for advice and support in banning the box at your organisation, we have guidance on when to ask about convictions.

If you think you’re ready to remove the box, or you want help to develop your recruitment process, you can contact us directly. You can also contact BITC, who can offer support.

Useful links

If you’re interested in the campaign, find out more at

We have practical guidance on when to ask about convictions

Working in partnership

  • We work alongside Business in the Community, who lead the Ban the Box campaign
  • We believe it’s important that Ban the Box is led by the business community, showing the positive impact that banning the box can have on businesses
  • We are pleased to be able to provide support to both BITC and the organisations that they work with, to help employers implement fairer recruitment practices
  • We would like to thank BITC for their permission in reproducing some of their content on this page
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