As an employer are you being too picky about the people you’re employing? According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), over half of employers in the UK are struggling to fill vacancies due to shortages in skilled applicants. One pool of workers which employers often write off without even inviting to interview are ex-offenders. There’s a general feeling of mistrust about people who have served time in prison, or even people who have a criminal record for minor offences which didn’t end in a sentence.
The prison system in the UK is all about rehabilitating offenders, and preparing them to lead a useful and productive life once they are released. The Probation Service is keen to get as many ex-offenders into work as possible, as statistics show that people who are employed are less likely to re-offend and end up back in prison. A new strategy, announced by the government in May, aims to offer local businesses financial incentives to take on some ex-offenders and give them a fresh start. This is to be done by devolving funds to individual prison governors to allow them to work closely with local employers. Incentives could include a National Insurance “holiday” for employers, cutting the costs of hiring an ex-offender rather than recruiting through other methods.
Many people who are being released from prison have been trained as part of their rehabilitation and may have skills in construction, IT or catering. Recruiting an ex-offender who has worked for a year in a high volume catering environment or has certificates proving their ability in bricklaying may be a far better option than taking on someone else without those skills. Many prisons operate a “day release” system for low-risk prisoners or those approaching the end of their sentences. This allows inmates to get out and do useful work during the day, and return to prison at night. It’s a way of building up work experience and showing a change of character and that they have the desirable qualities of responsibility and hard work.
Checking on Applicants
The obvious main reason why employers are reluctant to employ ex-offenders is because of the potential risk to the company. Is the new worker going to pose a risk to other people working in the organisation? Are they going to steal or damage company property? It’s perfectly legal for employers to ask whether or not people who are applying for jobs have criminal records. If someone lies and says that they have no convictions and are later found out, that’s usually grounds for instant dismissal. If an employer is engaged with a government scheme to target ex-offenders as employees, then more information is usually given on their background. The DBS checking system might also be an option, but DBS checks can only be carried out on people who are applying for certain categories of roles. It’s illegal to request DBS checks just because you are suspicious of someone’s background of because you’ve heard rumours about their past.