Third of employees feel ‘less secure’ working with ex-offenders, research finds

Employers urged to do more to reduce the stigma around individuals with a criminal record

A third of Brits say they would feel less secure at work if they knew a colleague had a criminal record, a survey has found, leading calls for employers to do more to reduce the stigma around working with former offenders

In the poll of 3,200 people, conducted by uCheck, 34 per cent of respondents said they would feel less secure knowing they were working with someone who had even a minor offence on their record.

Similarly, more than half of those surveyed (54 per cent) thought minor convictions should still be included on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) record checks.

The findings have led experts to call on businesses to do more to reduce the stigma attached to ex-offenders. Charlotte Gibb, employment and skills campaign manager at Business in the Community, said the findings “suggested a lack of awareness” about the nature and impact of criminal convictions.

“It is often as a result of difficult life circumstances that people commit minor offences; however, a DBS check doesn’t provide this context, leading to many people being rejected from jobs because of mistakes that were made years earlier,” Gibb said. She added that more than 11.7 million people in the UK had a criminal conviction, part of a “massive talent pool” that is often overlooked.

“Employers need to look beyond stereotypes and see the individual behind the conviction, and filtering out minor offences will help to make this possible,” she said.

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As well as being the correct legal approach, Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser in employment relations at the CIPD, said it was good practice for a criminal record check to not disclose information on protected convictions or cautions.

“The fact that, legally, employers can't take protected convictions into account when offering employment or dismissing an individual strikes the right balance between the need for disclosure and the rehabilitation of individuals with criminal records,” she said.

As well as having potential benefits for employers, it is well documented that employment is one of the best ways to prevent reoffending. “Research shows that it’s much harder to stop offending and contribute positively to society if you’re carrying around the heavy label of being an offender,” said Neal Hazel, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Salford.

“Allowing people to leave minor convictions behind them will make it less likely they commit crimes in the future. That means fewer victims and safer communities for all of us.”

This was echoed by Rachel Tynan, policy and practice lead at Unlock, who said England and Wales had “one of the most punitive disclosure systems in the world”, despite little evidence that disclosure reduces crime. “Enabling people to build better lives is key to making communities safer – filtering rules remove old and minor convictions to enable people to work and contribute positively to society,” she said.

Earlier this month, the government urged employers to hire ex-offenders, putting its weight behind the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign that calls on employers not to ask candidates if they have any convictions in the early stages of the recruitment process.

The government also announced new legislation last year that would remove the automatic disclosure of youth cautions, reprimands and warnings, and overturn the ‘multiple conviction’ rule, which requires people to disclose multiple convictions, regardless of the nature of the offence or sentence.