How to Give Job Applicants with a Criminal Record a Fair Chance

Written by Calvin Bowers
Last updated April 28, 2022

Fair chance hiring encourages employers to fairly recruit people with a criminal record, enabling them to get back to work. It is based on the principle that everybody has the right to be fairly assessed for a position they are qualified for.

Employers who give job applicants a fair chance with a criminal record tend to delay questions about convictions at the application stage. They aim to encourage applications from people who were previously charged with a crime. Additionally, fair chance hiring recognises the limited value of criminal records and questions their inclusion in recruitment decisions.

Therefore, fair chance hiring allows employers to assess a candidate’s criminal record only after the interview process and after deeming them suitable for a job. There are several reasons why employers and organisations should consider a fair chance hiring policy:

  • A more diverse staff team – diversity and inclusion are crucial aspects of running a successful business. When businesses consider workers, who were previously charged with a crime, they open their doors to people with a wide range of diverse experiences, skills, education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • A better return on investment – staff turnover can be costly for many businesses and organisations. A fair chance policy is likely to increase retention and offer a higher return on investment in training and staff development programs.
  • A more competitive profile – fair chance hiring allows employers to attract a potentially stronger variety of candidates, which helps businesses remain competitive.

The Principles of Fair Recruitment

There are three key principles of fair chance recruitment that employers should keep in mind when hiring ex-offenders:

Individual merit:

Employers should assess ex-offenders on their individual merits, taking into account their skills, experience, and qualifications.

Explanation and context:

Ex-offenders should be allowed to explain their criminal record and how they have changed since then. Giving ex-offenders the chance to provide the context of their criminal convictions may help to dispel any stigma attached to their charges. For many offenders in the UK, their convictions result from socio-economic factors rather than criminal intent.

Support and guidance:

Employers should provide support and guidance to ex-offenders throughout the recruitment process. This includes helping them with their job applications, interviews, and onboarding. Employers can help ex-offenders make a successful transition into the workforce by providing this support.

Can I Employ Someone with a Criminal Record?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the specific circumstances. However, employers are generally allowed to hire someone with a criminal record if they can demonstrate that they have taken into account the individual merits of the candidate. This means assessing their skills, experience, and qualifications and giving them the opportunity to explain their criminal record and how they have changed since then.

Depending on the offence, there are some career types that do not allow ex-offenders with unspent convictions to work there, such as some jobs in healthcare, finance, and law. However, this is highly dependent on the individual, so it’s important to research the current guidance on unspent convictions.

For the vast majority of jobs, it is ultimately up to the employer to decide whether or not they are willing to hire someone with a criminal record. However, it is important to keep in mind the principles of fair chance recruitment to ensure that you are giving the candidate a fair chance.

How Employers Can Give Ex-Offender Applicants a Chance

One of the main principles of fair chance hiring is to assess the candidate, rather than the record. We have put together a list of essential steps to consider for employers who want to give ex-offender applicants a fair chance:

Creating a Hiring Plan

It is essential to create a plan that clearly outlines your intentions and goals. You could think of what you would like to achieve with your project and how it will promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Working in partnership with different parts of your team is crucial at this stage. HR and Recruiting teams can help shape the hiring process for fair chance talent, whereas legal teams can take care of compliance and risk.

Extending Your Network to Find Fair Chance Talent

Fair chance hiring is also an opportunity to make significant connections with businesses, organisations and other experts. Cooperating with entities that focus on fair chance talent can provide you with convenient access to highly skilled staff without much research.

Here is a list of organisations that support ex-offenders in their transition into employment:

  • Nacro has a dedicated Resettlement Plus Helpline that offers information and advice to ex-offenders, serving prisoners, their families and friends, and organisations working with them.
  • Apex Charitable Trust works across North West England and seeks to help people with criminal records obtain appropriate jobs or self-employment by providing them with the skills they need in the labour market and by working with employers to break down the barriers to their employment.
  • Unlock is an independent charity for people with convictions dealing with the effects of having a criminal record.

Conducting a Competency-Based Interview

Interviews should be based on candidates’ transferable skills and willingness to learn, rather than their past experiences. Many ex-offenders who possess the right skills and competencies for your job opening might not have direct experience in the role or might have a considerable employment gap due to their incarceration. An employer conducts these interviews when they know exactly what they are looking for in an ideal candidate and has a list of pre-set skills that candidates must meet, regardless of their previous work experiences.

Assessing Charges Fairly and Lawfully

If an employer determines that it is necessary to conduct a criminal record check on a candidate, it is crucial to establish the level of check that the role is eligible for. Employers should note that it is a criminal offence to carry out a standard or enhanced DBS check on a candidate if the job role is not eligible. Jobs like working with children or vulnerable adults require a DBS check.

On the other hand, employers need to set up an individualised assessment practice if their workplace does not require a DBS application. Here are some factors that employers need to consider when assessing candidates’ charges:

  • The nature of a person’s conviction history.
  • The period that has passed since the offence.
  • The nature of the job that candidates are applying for.

Every year the job market in the United Kingdom changes and grows rapidly. We have a wealth of useful tips and resources for employers, including what funding options are available to your business. Be sure to also check out what employer services Refreshing a Career can provide for support employing ex-offenders, including advertising your roles on our unique career change jobs board.

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Last Updated: Thursday April 28 2022
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