Starting a new job is always a stressful time, certainly until your probationary period is up. But imagine how much worse it is to be constantly looking over your shoulder, worried about people finding out about your criminal record (even if you have disclosed it to your HR department). Todd knows just how that feels.
The day begun like every other day. After breakfast and a shower I had a pretty good 30 minute commute to work and was at my desk with plenty of time to spare.
The day was fairly uneventful until just after lunch when one of my managers tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to finish off what I was doing as he needed to have a quick word with me. I knew immediately that something was wrong – I could smell it in the air almost.
I finished what I was doing and followed my manager into the small ‘boardroom’ at the back of the building. As I walked in I could see another two senior managers sitting at the desk and I was asked to sit down. They explained to me that they’d just received my criminal record check and as a result of the information disclosed on it, they were going to have to terminate my contact. I tried to explain that I’d disclosed to the HR department at the interview and they didn’t seem to see my conviction as being a problem but my explanation fell on deaf ears. The managers weren’t interested in what I was saying, they’d already made up their minds. I was a problem they didn’t want to have to deal with.
I was asked to hand over my name badge and told that I should go and collect all my personal belongings. My manager came with me and stood over me whilst I gathered my things together and he then pretty much marched me out of the building. I could see my colleagues starting at me wondering what on earth was going on.
Over the next few days a couple of the guys from work sent me text messages and one rang to find out what had happened and make sure that I was OK. I tried explaining that I had to leave due to some personal problems but as I wasn’t able to give more details, I’m not sure whether the guy believed me or not. It was good that he’d taken the time to ring me though.
As the days pass, I start to reflect on what’s happened and reality hits. In the 5 months that I’d been with the company I’d worked so hard to prove myself. I’d always arrived early and I’d stay late when I needed to and I fitted in well with my colleagues. But my managers didn’t judge me on my work or attendance, just on my background. You see I’m a person with a conviction for a sexual offence and this employer (like others before) just can’t see beyond this.
Explaining the circumstances surrounding my conviction just makes it sound as though I’m making excuses and I really don’t want to do that. I don’t want sympathy. I know what I did was wrong, I’ve faced up to my offences and now just want to live an ordinary, quiet life.
As the weeks go by, the people that initially expressed their concern stop contacting me. I know the sort of gossip that spreads round the workplace and although I’m disappointed in my colleagues I do understand. I try to tell myself that life goes on but I’m hurting so much inside. Thoughts of self-harming surface and I start to think that I’d be better off dead. I’m not sure that I’d be brave enough to take my own life and I know that I’m just reacting to a situation. I’ve been through it before and I know that I’ll come out the other end.
So today I’ve been back to the jobcentre looking for a new job and hoping that my next employer is able to see beyond something that happened a long time ago and shouldn’t totally define who I am.
By Todd (name changed to protect identity)
A comment from Unlock
Getting a job with any type of conviction is difficult but can be even more so if you were convicted of a sexual offence. Employers often worry that employing somebody with a sexual offence will be brand damaging together with the effect on the workforce if they were to find out.
As part of our Fair Access to Employment project we believe that as well as changes in government policy, employers should develop more proactive and positive business practices when dealing with the recruitment of people with a criminal record irrespective of the type of offence.