Over 11 million people in the UK have a criminal record, yet people with convictions are the least likely of all disadvantaged groups to be employed, according to employment charity Unlock.
Employers have historically been reluctant to hire those with criminal records, with half (50%) of businesses saying they would not even consider it (YouGov, 2016).
Natasha Finlayson, CEO of Working Chance, a charity that helps women with criminal records into employment, told HR magazine that this group is an under-appreciated resource, especially given the current labour shortages.
“Employers can’t afford to ignore the diverse skills and experience of people with criminal records – it has traditionally been a massively untapped talent pool,” Finlayson said.
She added that 80% of employers of people with criminal records positively rate their motivation, attendance and performance, and 92% of employers say that taking a diverse approach to recruiting has improved their reputation.
“Across the board, in terms of reputation and how well these employees perform, and from their high rate of retention within the company – from the loyalty and appreciation for being given a second chance – it makes absolute business sense to give people another chance," she added.
Huge numbers of people with spent convictions, said Finlayson, are deterred from even applying for roles because of improper practice in recruitment. This, in effect, massively reduces the talent pool available to companies.
“Employers should not be talking to applicants about spent convictions, and shouldn’t be asking about it, unless it’s a job working with children or vulnerable adults," she said.
“At the point when you think you’ve found the right candidate, and they have an unspent criminal record, talk to them about it. Allow them to disclose the facts and give context. If you then need to do a DBS check, you’re not going to get any nasty surprises.
“HR should be knowledgeable of the law and best practice; they could consult the website Nacro, which sets out guidelines for both, the CIPD or, if they’re interested in hiring women specifically, they can come to Working Chance.”
Some companies have begun not just hiring those with criminal records, but those leaving prison, too.
Andy McBride, group head of resourcing and reward at Halfords, told HR magazine that their experience has been extremely positive.
“Our store colleagues are only too glad to have an additional source of properly trained and highly motivated technicians. Their loyalty levels are high, and so is retention," he said.
“More and more employers are waking up to the benefits of providing a second chance for prison leavers, but there need to be more schemes that give them in-demand skills while they’re serving their sentences.
“It’s a win-win-win for the prison leavers, employers, and society.”