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Hiring ex-offenders: new guidance published by CIPD Trust

Around one in four people of working age have a conviction, according to the Ministry of Justice

The CIPD Trust has today published guidance for employers to recruit, employ and retain people with convictions or lived experience with the criminal justice system.

Data from the Ministry of Justice showed that 17% of ex-offenders get a job within a year of release.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of Working Chance, an employment charity for women with convictions, explained that organisations can benefit from hiring people with convictions.

She told HR magazine: “Employers can benefit hugely. First, it adds diversity to the team, bringing in unique perspectives and skills that might otherwise be overlooked. 

“It's also a chance to create an inclusive culture that values people and their potential. This benefits everybody. 

“One of the biggest benefits of hiring people with convictions is to the employer’s reputation as a socially responsible organisation. Consumers put more trust in brands that align with their values.”

The Ministry of Justice found that 86% of employers of people with convictions rated them as good at their job.

Read more: Disclosure barrier to employment lifted for thousands of ex-offenders

The new guidance from CIPD Trust suggests that employers highlight their approach to recruiting people with convictions in their job adverts or on their website, and communicate their commitment to hiring people with convictions both internally and externally.

Employers should also train recruiting managers on how to be inclusive when hiring people with convictions.

Finlayson suggested that HR could share success stories from people with convictions, to communicate their organisation's desire for more inclusive hiring.

She said: “To make the recruitment process more accessible for people with convictions, HR professionals can start by making sure their policies are up-to-date, and the organisation's desire for more inclusive hiring is communicated clearly with staff. 

“On a practical level, HR professionals can ensure that recruitment materials demonstrate that the organisation welcomes diverse backgrounds, and share success stories from employees with convictions, actively promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives both inside and outside the company.”

Jacob Hill, an ex-prisoner and the founder of Offploy, a social enterprise that supports both employers and people with convictions, told HR magazine that employers could go further by proactively looking to recruit people with convictions.

He commented: “Employers are no longer asking if they should hire people with convictions but instead how they do it. 

Read more: Employers worried about candidates with criminal records reoffending

“This means that your competitors are already opening their doors, relaxing their recruitment processes and maybe even proactively reaching out to places where they can find people with a criminal past such as prisons or organisations like Offploy.”

The CIPD's guidance recommends that employers could make use of mentors or champions to support people with convictions joining their organisation, and to create an inclusive culture.

Hill added that an inclusive culture is key to supporting the recruitment process for people with convictions.

He continued: “Without a positive, well-informed and open culture, any project that supports socially excluded people will fall flat on its face as soon as the smallest thing goes wrong.

“One of the best ways to get the culture right is to stop talking about the ‘idea’ of employing people with convictions and become very specific. Have those with lived experience come speak with your team.

“Above all, just give it a go. As someone with a conviction, I would sooner find myself sitting in an interview with an employer ‘giving it a go’ than one that essentially files my application in the bin the second I leave the room.”