Job vacancies in the UK are at their highest since records began. According to the ONS, there were 1.3 million job vacancies in the UK from March to May of 2022. This is an increase of nearly 500,000 since pre-pandemic February 2020. As a result, UK businesses are experiencing a major skills shortage. In fact, 33% of business owners state that they are unable to fill the skills gaps in their workforce. So, why not consider employing ex-offenders?

Some employers may be hesitant to hire an ex-offender. It is understandable that some ex-offenders might not be suited to certain roles. Nevertheless, the majority of others who may be perfect for specific roles are overlooked because of their past. There are over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record. This virtually untapped talent pool could solve many employers’ skills shortages problems.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of hiring ex-offenders.

Benefits of Employing Ex-Offenders

There are many reasons why hiring ex-offenders is beneficial for business. And with DBS checks easier than ever to fill out, employers know exactly who they’re taking on as part of their workforce.

There’s no better time for employers to think outside the box and diversify their workforce with ex-offenders. And with proven results that actively hiring former prisoners reduces the chances of reoffending, it’s a win-win.

Take a look at our list of reasons to recruit an ex-offender:

1. Filling Crucial Skills Gaps

Finding a job as an ex-offender can be extremely difficult. Because of this, many ex-offenders end up back in prison after reoffending. In fact, only 17% of ex-offenders find a job within the first year of release. While those who get a job are up to 9 percentage points less likely to re-offend.

Therefore, employment is the essential barrier to overcome. As such, many prisons have started to teach a range of skills while prisoners are incarcerated. Many individuals leave prison with professional qualifications and an enhanced skill set. According to, 86% of employers who hired an ex-offender report that they are good at their job. This underutilised talent pool could provide the perfect solution to fill both your vacancies and skills gaps.

2. Increasing the Diversity and Inclusivity of the Workforce

Employing an ex-offender contributes to the diversity, inclusion and social responsibility of your business. More than 9 out of 10 employers say that diverse recruitment has enhanced their reputation. This, in turn, has helped them to win new contracts. With 81% of people viewing businesses who hire the formerly incarcerated as making a positive contribution to society, it is clear that employing an ex-offender could make a significant impact on your organisation.

3. Reducing Absence and Increasing Retention

Employing ex-offenders gives them the opportunity they may need to get their lives back on track and stay out of prison. Consequently, many ex-offenders have high levels of loyalty, motivation, attendance, and performance.

Perhaps, other employees have begun to take their job for granted. Working alongside someone who values their job to such a high extent encourages other employees to see their job in a new light. This can increase your employee retention rate and employee job satisfaction across the board.

4. Lowering Initial Recruiting Costs

With prisons offering access for employers to interview candidates, businesses can reduce overheads such as advertising for jobs. Ex-offenders provide a readily available pool of candidates that can be accessed by businesses that are looking to fill vacancies. The end result is a qualified employee who was hired for a minimal cost.

How to Recruit Ex-Offenders

The New Futures Network (NFN) is a part of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. It works to connect employers with the prison system to help fill the skills gap and provide employment for people leaving prison. They can even set employers up with individuals who are still in prison. This is called Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL). The NFN works with prisons to field appropriate candidates to join your business on day release. In this way, you can make sure the individual is the correct fit for your business.

Often, there are fundamental barriers in the recruitment process that inhibit the employment of ex-offenders. As an employer, it is essential to review your current recruitment policy to ensure you’re not putting these individuals at a disadvantage.

There are several aspects to address, including:

  • Ensuring you understand the criminal record disclosure legislation
  • Making sure you understand the rehabilitation legislation
  • The ability to provide tailored support to these individuals
  • Consider joining initiatives such as the Ban the Box campaign
  • Leave questions about past convictions until later in the interviewing process. This allows you to fairly consider the person’s skills and abilities before making judgements.

Employing Ex-Offender: Key Takeaways

The seemingly untapped talent pool available to employers could be the solution to the skills shortage problems we’re currently facing. Employing ex-offenders gives employers the chance to diversify their workforce. There is proof that this enhances your reputation which is good for the bottom line.

Interested in finding out more? Refreshing a Career has a range of useful resources and guidance for employers who are considering ex-offender employment.

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