Recruiting ex offenders: taking a fresh look

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Over 20% of the working-age population have a criminal record, but many businesses can be squeamish about employing ex-offenders.

In fact, it’s estimated that three out of four employers would use a declaration of a caution or a conviction to pass over an applicant in favour of someone with no criminal record.

Taking another look

Employing ex-offenders doesn’t come without challenges, but there’s recently been a push to encourage businesses to re-examine the issue.

Earlier in 2015, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson urged businesses to play a greater role in rehabilitating ex-offenders. There are numerous reasons why it makes sense - from a recruitment perspective if nothing else, it means being able to choose from a huge and previously-ignored talent pool.

Navigating the issues

The government website sets out the facts: As part of The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, employers can’t turn someone down for a job because they’ve been convicted of an offence if the conviction or caution is ‘spent’ - unless an exception applies. Equally, job applicants needn’t tell potential employers about spent convictions or cautions.

But it’s long been recognised that employers need more support navigating this area.

Changes to legislation that have an impact on disclosing a criminal record can be hard to get to grips with, plus there’s the issue of potential risks - how should they be managed? This may be particularly relevant if the offence a candidate committed wasn’t relevant to (or makes them a risk in) the role they’re applying for.

Supporting recruiters

The good news is that the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) has teamed up with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to produce `Recruiting safely and fairly: a practical guide to employing ex-offenders’.

The aim? To help employers and recruiters understand their legal rights and responsibilities - plus learn good practice - when it comes to recruiting and employing someone with a criminal record.

Safe and fair policies

At HR GO, we’ve recently spent time updating our Safe Recruitment Policy so it’s fairer and safer.

Similar to those of an increasing number of forward-looking businesses, our job application forms do not contain a tickbox requiring candidates to disclose unspent criminal convictions. 

We feel it’s important that no one is excluded from a suitable position at the  pre-interview stage because of their record, and believe this helps create a level playing field for all candidates.

If someone has an unspent conviction, they should instead declare it on a dedicated space on their form. Then we’ll discuss the issue confidentially with them and gain the necessary context.

Clear processes to follow

We’ve also produced a Safer Recruitment Checklist to help our staff follow clear processes when they’re recruiting. It’s mainly aimed at roles which involve safeguarding children or vulnerable groups, but can also be adapted for positions that need comprehensive pre-employment screening.

Of course, employing ex-offenders is not without its challenges. But we feel that giving HR GO staff the best possible procedures gives them the confidence to lessen and manage potential risk - and be able to pick the best candidates for our clients from the largest talent pool possible.

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