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Candidates with convictions benefit from shift in employer attitude

UK employers are more likely to hire people with previous criminal convictions than they were a decade ago, according to research from Working Chance, an employment charity for women with convictions.

The research showed 45% of employers would consider hiring a candidate with past convictions, up from 25% in 2010.

Despite this increase, there was still evidence of prejudice among employers.

Although just 15% of hiring managers said it was company policy not to hire someone with past convictions, 30% said they would automatically dismiss a candidate who disclosed such information.

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Adetola Adeogun, a tech support administrator who found employment through Working Chance, said managing the transition back into work is the hardest part for those with criminal records.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "Things are so much better now with how employers are engaging with people that have convictions. There's an open window, but how open is it for people to transition? Is there enough time to lead them to transition within their role?

"For me as an individual, I feel like people need to be connected so that they're able to make that transition. I didn't get the job by myself, I got it because somebody else believed in me."

The right information and support can make all the difference.

Adeogun added: "It's a two-way street to get that person on par with who they are and what they can achieve. There's no such thing as anyone that has been to prison that doesn't want to give their all so that they don't go back in."

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive at Working Chance, said companies would be unwise to dismiss candidates so easily amid a talent shortage.

She said: “One in six adults in the UK has a criminal record, which means that a lot of great candidates are being overlooked by hiring managers who are making decisions based on personal prejudice rather than judging people fairly and objectively.

"This is counterproductive in the face of chronic labour shortages driven by Brexit and the pandemic – employers should be more open-minded now than they’ve ever been if they want their businesses to thrive.

“Despite evidence to the contrary, many employers consider people with convictions to be the ‘riskiest’ group of people to recruit from.

"When compared with other groups considered to be distanced from the labour market, people with convictions face the lowest interview to hire conversion rate. This research has shown us that a lot more needs to be done to change the hearts and minds of employers when it comes to hiring people with convictions."

The research showed 91% of employers who have recruited people with convictions said the employee settled in well with colleagues, and 81% said they proved to be loyal members of staff.

Adeogun, who found work with companies such as Greggs and TK Maxx before landing her current role in November 2021, explained the additional pressure she felt at work given her background. 

She said: "Employers that I got to work with were okay when they didn't really know my past. Once they knew, I could tell they expected me to work harder than everybody else. I wouldn't dream of even making some of the mistakes that some other employees actually did because I was so scared of losing the job.

"I have to always put my foot forward and do more than what is required so that I'm trusted. There were extra things that I had to do just for employers to see that I did have something valuable."

Working Chance surveyed 1,000 UK employers in 2022, building on similar research conducted in 2010 and 2016.