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Business In The Community

Claudia Vince, about 4 years ago

"A past criminal convictions has no bearing on an an individuals' ability to do a good job today." (Fergus Williams, Walking with the Wounded)

Research has suggested that people with criminal convictions who gain employment are between 33 and 50% less likely to reoffend than those who remain unemployed. Ex-offenders often experience difficulties in securing a job due to the stigma that comes with having a criminal conviction. As employment is a major factor in reducing reoffending, encouraging businesses to employ ex-offenders helps not only the individuals in their rehabilitative journey, but also businesses and wider society.

Business in the Community (BITC) supports ex-offenders into employment through its Ready for Work programme since 2001, which is designed to help disadvantaged groups gain and sustain employment. Between a quarter and a third of Ready for Work candidates have a criminal conviction and BITC's Ban the Box campaign encourages employers to open up mainstream jobs to these candidates.

In an era when many industries are facing extreme staffing shortages and skills gaps, it is now necessary for businesses to consider alternative options for securing employees. Business in the Community aims to inform businesses of the untapped skill resource that can be found amongst individuals with criminal records. As ex-offenders are often overlooked by businesses, much of BITC's work is focused on making employers aware of these 11 million potential employees, and demonstrating why recruiting these individuals is likely to benefit their business. It has been noted that ex-offenders have high retention rates and therefore make reliable and hard-working employees. These are desirable employee characteristics for any business and demonstrates how ex-offenders can be valued and welcomed members of a team, particularly in a time when many businesses are facing uncertainty in employee retention and skill shortages.

"As an employer who actively employs ex-offenders, I find that generally they bring huge assets that are often not found in other areas of the workforce." (Peter Bentley, Intuitive Thinking Skills)

The Ban the Box campaign aims to tackle the immediate barriers so many ex-offenders face when applying for jobs. It asks businesses to remove the tick box asking about criminal convictions from their recruitment forms and ask about unspent convictions at a later stage of the recruitment process, instead enabling individuals' skills and talent to shine through. Not only is this about helping the individuals to find employment, but it also aims to ensure employers have fair and impartial recruitment processes. This has a number of benefits for employers themselves:

1. Access to a wider, more diverse talent pool

Ban the Box increases access to a wide range of skills and experiences which can help to address skills shortages and support efforts to increase diversity.

2. Access to valuable employees

Many organisations that actively employ ex-offenders report positive experiences. Ex-offenders have high retention rates and make reliable and hard-working employees.

3. Reputational benefits

65% of organisations that promote their efforts to hire ex-offenders in the media report a positive impact on their corporate reputation.

4. Responsible business credentials

Ban the Box demonstrates commitment to being an inclusive employer and is evidence of your positive contribution to local communities and wider society.

At the time of publication, 87 employers have signed up to the Ban the Box campaign and more than 720,000 jobs have been covered. Signing up to Ban the Box through BITC has a number of advantages for businesses, including:

1. an entry on BITC's list of Ban the Box employers, the definite list for candidates seeking companies open to employing ex-offenders

2. public visibility as a Ban the Box employer on BITC's website

3. a shout out on BITC's Twitter account

4. the opportunity for publicity through case studies on BITC's website, articles in the media and platforms to speak about Ban the Box at events and webinars

Business in the Community aims to increase the scope of the campaign over the next three years, with the goal being to reach 1 million Ban the Box jobs by 2020.

BITC also offers a number of steps for businesses after they have removed barriers to employment. You can become a Ready for Work employer, joining BITC's network of organisations to provide individuals with a lasting path out of social exclusion. You can also join BITC's Reducing Reoffending through Employment Network which has 18 members committed to reducing reoffending which share good practice and provide peer support. For employers based in the East Midlands, you could take part in BITC's East Midland prisons project which works in partnership with the National Careers Service to deliver employability support to prisons in the area. For East Midlands employers who would like to get involved, you can contact

"Some of our most valued employees have been through the criminal justice system, and companies that discriminate are missing out on some of the most diverse talent out there." (Beth Murray, Only Connect)