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Disclosure barrier to employment lifted for thousands of ex-offenders

The move could ease reintegration to society and reduce reoffending, the government says -

A change in the law will significantly reduce the time people with criminal convictions are legally required to declare them to potential employers after serving their sentence.

Lord Chancellor and justice secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said this will remove barriers to employment after prison and lower reoffending levels.

He said: “Carrying the weight of life-long criminal records even after serving their time is a huge barrier for many offenders seeking to reintegrate into society and turn away from a life of crime.

“These reforms will help ex-offenders get the steady income, routine and purpose they need which cuts reoffending and ensures fewer members of the public become victims of crime.”

Under the previous rules, some offenders needed to disclose their sentences for the rest of their lives. 

Now, custodial sentences of four years become ‘spent’ after a seven-year period of rehabilitation, as long as no further offence is committed. The same applies to longer sentences for less serious crimes.

Custodial sentences of a year or less will only need to be disclosed for one year.

Read more: Most employers would consider hiring ex-offenders in 2023

Offenders who have committed serious sexual, violent, or terrorist offences are excluded from these changes and stricter rules will continue to apply to jobs that involve working with vulnerable people, through standard and enhanced DBS checks.

The reforms came into force on Saturday (28 October 2023) under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Nearly 125,000 people sentenced in 2022 will be affected by the changes.

Kelly Dolphin, people and culture director at SBFM, which hires ex-offenders as part of its DEI policy, said they are an under-utilised talent pool.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “We need to start recognising the inherent potential within ex-offenders and offer them a second chance. 

“These individuals often possess a wealth of untapped skills that can address the prevailing labour gap. It's time to focus on rehabilitation, reintegration, and the belief that everyone can change. 

“Embracing ex-offenders as valuable contributors to our workforce can foster a more inclusive and compassionate society, where everyone has the opportunity to rebuild their lives and make a positive impact.”

Read more: Female ex-prisoners need more support finding work

More employers are opening up to ex-offender employment, but negative attitudes still prevails according to Natasha Finlayson, chief executive at Working Chance, an employment charity for women with conviction.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Although some employers are becoming more open-minded, disclosing an unspent criminal conviction is still a huge barrier to finding a job. 

Our research found 30% of hiring managers would automatically exclude a candidate if they disclosed a conviction, regardless of how serious the offence was.”