By Jackie Sinclair

in Nacro comments

Next week, Nacro, together with the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and supported by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), is launching an essential new publication for employers, ‘Recruiting Safely and Fairly: a practical guide to employing ex-offenders’.

Over 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record. That’s over 20% of the working-age population – a vast pool of potential talent that many organisations either directly or indirectly exclude. Reoffending costs the UK up to £13 billion each year and for a long time, gainful employment has been identified as a key factor which reduces the likelihood of reoffending. Yet too many people continue to face significant – and unnecessary – barriers long after they have put their offending behind them.

Ok so…what’s the problem?

Criminal record disclosure law in the UK has changed a lot over the last couple of years. It’s complicated and widely misunderstood; by jobseekers, by those supporting and advising them and by employers and organisations receiving criminal record information.

Most organisations nowadays ask for criminal record declarations and an increasing number require some form of criminal record certification. Long gone are the days of burying the past in the past! Yet while nine out of ten employers have said that they are open to the idea of recruiting ex-offenders, less than two out of ten have knowingly done so. This is despite the fact that employers’ experience of recruiting people with criminal records has generally been extremely positive. Many organisations that have promoted the recruitment of people with criminal records have reported a positive impact on staff motivation, as well as on corporate reputation.

What employers say they want and need

The vast majority of employers are not experts in how the criminal justice system operates. Aside from trying to navigate the complexities of criminal record disclosure legislation, many find it difficult to understand and interpret the criminal record information they have asked for.

Research from BITC, the CIPD and Working Links has highlighted that employers lack the tools and confidence to make informed decisions about applicants with criminal records. Without an understanding of how to make informed decisions, it’s easy to see why the default position might be to avoid employing someone with a criminal record all together.

From my experience of working with employers and organisations, I don’t think that trying to ‘avoid’ the problem is their preference. They have called for expert support and guidance; a framework for assessing risk and implementing safeguards. They want to understand how other organisations approach this issue and to share best practice.

Nacro’s response

Nacro has been supporting employers and other organisations with recruiting and employing people with criminal records for over 15 years. In response to increasing demand, last year we launched a dedicated, national Employer Advice Service which offers free, expert guidance and operational support for organisations with concerns about carrying out criminal record checks and how to manage allegations or criminal record issues concerning applicants and existing staff.

We have worked closely with colleagues at the CIPD and the DBS to produce up-to-date practical guidance that seeks to help organisations to understand their legal rights and responsibilities when it comes to dealing with people with histories of offending, update and implement safe and fair recruitment policies and procedures, and confidently and effectively manage and mitigate any potential risks.

The guidance will be launched on 14 May at an event hosted by Eversheds in London and simultaneously at Manchester United Football Club by the Employers’ Forum for Reducing Re-offending.

The guide will be freely available to download from our website.

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