Business Law & Compliance

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Ban the Box: Discrimination against ex-offenders

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An astounding 9.2m people, one in five of the population, have criminal records. Perhaps more astonishing is that three-quarters of employers admit to using a criminal conviction to discriminate against an applicant, meaning that millions of job seekers are blocked from employment. 

‘Ban the Box’, which is backed by Alliance Boots, is now asking UK employers to assess job seekers on their skills and abilities first, rather than excluding them because of an unrelated conviction. Employers can request positive disclosure of unspent criminal convictions as required at a later stage in the application process after the initial skills assessment.

Ban the Box aims to enable more ex-offenders to access work, whilst also addressing the estimated £11bn per year annual cost of re-offending as employment is proven to reduce the likelihood of re-offending by up to 50 per cent.

“Ban the Box is about challenging the perception that people with unspent convictions inherently bring exceptional risk as employees,” said Edwina Hughes, campaign manager for reducing re-offending at Business in the Community. “Using the blunt instrument of a tick box, employers reject passionate, skilled employees. 

That could range from anyone who has received a £300 fine for a driving offence and will have to tick the box for five years, to someone with a prison sentence of more than 2.5 years who has to tick the box for the rest of their life. In the past ten years, no progress has been made on stopping this discrimination in the UK. Now is the time for action – employers must open their doors to new talent and take a simple first step in levelling the playing field.”

Daley aged 31 is an ex-offender employed at the Camden Garden Centre as a trainee, said: “Any future employer can ask me if I have an unspent conviction and I have to tell them. I think that’s fair enough. The problem is that once an employer sees that tick box, lots of them are already ruling you out. They are already thinking this guy is trouble. What they don’t see is me, my new life, what I’ve done since I came out of prison and how I could be a great employee. The tick box is definitely a barrier for me to get to interview.”

Business in the Community’s Ban the Box is calling for the following actions:

Employers  

  • Remove the default tick box requesting information on unspent criminal convictions from online and paper job application processes, where the role does not legally require a full criminal records check;
  • Examine existing policies and practices relating to the recruitment of people with criminal convictions and identify how disclosure of criminal convictions can be moved further down the application process;
  • Publicly declare the removal of the default tick box on corporate websites and application forms to highlight that you do not discriminate against ex offenders. This will encourage ex-offenders to apply without fear of being screened out;
  • Share best practice examples about the recruitment of ex-offenders online at www.bitc.org.uk/banthebox; and
  • Keep the checks and processes that are legally required when recruiting for “regulated” roles as defined by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), such as jobs with children or vulnerable adults, for which a full criminal records check with the DBS is essential. 

Employees

  • Contact HR departments and urge them to check or revise company policies and practice on employing ex-offenders. A template email is available here: www.bitc.org.uk/banthebox; and
  • Sign Business in the Community’s Change.org petition to get UK employers to remove the default tick box from job application forms.

Ex-offenders

  • Share your experiences of job seeking and the impact of tick box disclosure with Business in the Community to help build up a national picture of this issue.

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