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September 3 2018

Employers too often 'overlook' candidates with criminal records

The Cabinet Office has been running a consultation into the practice of employers dismissing applicants with a criminal record.

Employers “too often” discount job applicants with a criminal record before even considering their suitability for the role, the government has been advised.   The Cabinet Office had been running a consultation on supporting ex-offenders into employment. That consultation closed for feedback last Friday

In its submission, Unlock criticised the use of questions asking potential employees to ‘tick a box’ if they have a criminal record, noting such practices were being used by organisations to “deselect” candidates and offered them no chance to explain or add any context. It added the practice also led to those with past convictions self-selecting out of certain roles. 

“Too often, employers overlook skills, experience and qualifications if an applicant declares they have a criminal record,” the submission continued. “Employers – supported by government – should ban the box as the first step to recruiting the best candidates for their jobs.”  The charity added its own research had found more than two-thirds of large employers ask applicants whether they have a criminal record in the first stages of the recruitment process. 

In 2013, Business in the Community (BITC), partnering with Unlock and Nacro, launched the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign, urging employers to drop questions asking potential employees to tick a box if they have a criminal record. Since then, more than 100 employers have signed up.

“We believe screening based on a tick box is not an effective way of excluding inappropriate applicants and we can’t assume that everybody with a criminal conviction poses a risk,” BITC wrote in its consultation submission. “A successful organisation needs to take a long-term view, looking for the potential offered by candidates from a variety of walks of life, rather than recruiting in your own image.”