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Why is diversity good for my business?

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 8 months ago

This time of national and global crisis has revealed the increasing inequalities in our society.

As businesses recover and build back responsibility, a commitment to diversity and inclusion is a priority. This includes building a diverse workforce that is inclusive of people with convictions.

We need to take the full experience of a person into account when we hire.

-June Sarpong, director of creative diversity, BBC

Unlock have emphasised that employers with blanket exclusions towards people with criminal records indirectly discriminate against people from BAME backgrounds.

As The Lammy Review reports, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are over-represented in the prison population (making up more than 25% of the adult male prison population and over 50% of young people) compared to the general population.

The real issue for prison leavers from all backgrounds is not the lack of talent, but the lack of opportunity on release. Opportunity at an entry-level, but also for progression. 6 weeks after release, only 4% of women & 11% of men are employed.

A survey of employers by Reed revealed that 53% of employers have no policies in place in relation to people with convictions, and only 1% of employers have policies in place to encourage the employment of ex-offenders.

In light of this, you may ask what do we need to do as a business to shape our policies and processes so that we can include our opportunities to people with convictions? How can we make a proactive effort to include diverse talent from prisons?

It is important to understand and value different lived experiences and what extra skills a person may have as a result of that.

-June Sarpong, director of creative diversity, BBC

Employers, across industries, are aware of the business benefits of hiring people with convictions. It's no longer if employers will hire people with convictions. More rather how employers hire to keep up with competitors.

For businesses in England and Wales, a useful starting point might be our campaign. We have outlined all the different points of engagement in prison and the community in our handy employer pack. It also showcases leading organisations such as, Offploy and Working Chance, with the expertise and experience to make the hiring process as smooth as possible.

There is a real need for better work-place training in prison and in the community. This presents an opportunity for businesses to accelerate hiring processes and develop a skilled workforce by implementing training programmes to meet business needs and transform lives. This is especially beneficial for organisations with skills shortages, for example in social care, logistics, construction and technology.

No barriers; just opportunities.

-Paul Baker, Bakers Waste

When advertising roles, we encourage employers to state that they actively encourage people from all backgrounds, including those with convictions, to apply.

You may wish to sign up to Business in the Community's Ban The Box campaign and commit to asking about disclosure at a later stage in the hiring process.

Based in London or Bristol? See Key4Life's YOUNITED campaign and sign up to their employer charter.

Employers who have successfully hired from this talent pool, such as HSS Hire, Greggs and Halfords, have found employees to be loyal, resilient and hard-working.

Building a diverse workforce that is inclusive of people with convictions may be challenging at first, but with specialist guidance and support, it can work well, generating huge benefits for business and employees alike.