Government urges employers to consider hiring ex-offenders

There are ‘few better ways’ of reducing reoffending than employment, says prisons minister, with former criminals potentially providing much-needed skills

Government urges employers to consider hiring ex-offenders

The government is urging employers to do more to hire ex-offenders by not asking candidates if they have any convictions in the early stages of the recruitment process.

The minister for prisons and probation, Lucy Frazer, said by waiting until the later stages of recruitment before asking about any past convictions, employers would be helping reduce crime while giving former offenders a second chance.

“There are few better ways to reduce reoffending than getting former offenders into work,” Frazer said.

Referring to the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign, which calls on businesses to remove the criminal convictions tickbox from application forms, Frazer added: “In the civil service, we have banned the box from all but the most sensitive roles and I’d urge all employers to follow suit.

“You will be helping shape a nation with less crime and fewer victims while giving these men and women a second chance.”

Official government figures estimate reoffending costs the UK more than £18bn annually, but show when those with criminal convictions are in work they are 34 per cent less likely to reoffend.

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The minister’s statement comes as research from Business in the Community (BITC) estimates that employers have collectively opened up more than a million roles to former offenders through Ban the Box across 150 companies signed up to the campaign.

In the poll of 43 employers signed up to the campaign, more than a third (35 per cent) said they found removing questions about past convictions in the early stages of the recruitment process helped to solve skills shortages in their business. Three-quarters (74 per cent) also said being part of the campaign had improved their reputation.

Nicola Inge, employment and skills director at BITC, said employers rejecting candidates offhand because of previous convictions could be missing out on talent. “Those companies that haven’t banned the box could be locking themselves out of a talent pool totalling 11.7 million people in the UK,” she said. 

“Finding your next recruit isn’t about ticking a box, it’s about considering people with the right skills and experience, and not judging them on past mistakes. [Ex-offenders] could diversify the workforce and provide a huge return on a company’s investment – but they need to be given a second chance.”