Ellie Price, about 5 years ago
In our previous blog we introduced you to the business case for bringing ex-offenders into the workforce, highlighting the fact that recruiting individuals from this section of society is highly beneficial to both the employee and the employer, too.
It's one thing to agree in theory with the notion that hiring ex-offenders is a positive step for all involved, and quite another to know how to put this into practice. There are many questions that potential employers may have about the process of hiring an ex-offender. They seem to centre around four main concerns: Is it legal to hire an ex-offender? How do I find the right person? What support is available for them and what are my responsibilities? What support is available to our business?
So, is it legal to employ an individual with a conviction? Yes, is the short answer. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allows ex-offenders, once a certain length of time since their conviction has passed, to remove these convictions from their records (with the exception of individuals who have committed the most serious offences) so that their convictions become 'spent'. Once a conviction is spent, employers are not entitled to know about a potential employee's criminal record, and it is now illegal for any employer to discriminate against an individual on the basis of a spent conviction.
The next concern revolves around finding the right individual for the business: is it possible to find someone who is not only reliable and trustworthy, but also has the required skill set for that particular position? Again, the answer to both parts of this question is yes. Only 7% of employers who have hired ex-offenders have reported having a negative experience. Most employers of ex-offenders encounter people who not only take a positive and pro-active approach, but also often work harder to prove that they are reliable, developing good working relationships with both colleagues and managers. In addition, there are a number of initiatives in prisons to teach technical skills to offenders and our Directory allows you to search, by skill, to find charities and social enterprises which are delivering the relevant skills and training required by your business.
Potential employers may also worry that the responsibility to an employee who is an ex-offender, and may need additional support, could outweigh any benefits that result from hiring such an individual. There are, however, a number of charities and organisations which work with and offer support to ex-offenders with many different aspects of their lives. The social organisation through which your new employee was recruited is likely to have a team of caseworkers who are able to offer in-work support relating to the individual. For example, hiring individuals through social enterprises, such as Blue Sky, Working Chance and BounceBack, ensures financial support for the employee for things such as travel, training, and occasionally also housing. As an employer your responsibilities to your employees with convictions are the same as to those without convictions.
Similarly, there are organisations that offer help to employers, particularly with recruitment, which are featured in our Directory. Networks of 'friendly' employers are also developing. The Reducing Re-offending through Employment Network, offers employers access to best practice examples of business action as well as offering support and guidance from other members. The Employers' Forum for Reducing Re-offending, is another fast-growing membership organisation.
What we hope is that these concerns, though valid, can and will be put to rest. There are many reliable, hardworking, trustworthy individuals with the relevant skill sets ready and willing to be employed. There are organisations ready to offer the necessary support and advice to both employers and employees. Together they can ensure that the best is achieved for all involved.