As part of her job Susie engages with both individuals with a criminal record and employers. She says that there have been some changes in employers attitudes towards those with a criminal record over the past 10 years but more still needs to be done and it’s important therefore to share examples of good practice.

For the last 10 years I have worked for an organisation which supports people with a criminal record back into work. During the course of my work, I regularly engage with employers trying to get them to recognise the benefits of employing somebody with a criminal record.

The world has changed a lot over the last 10 years and many of the employers I work with have a much more diverse workforce than they did 10 years ago. For many years I’ve seen employers such as Timpsons and Greggs recruiting people with criminal records and speaking passionately about it, however employers like these are few and far between.

This disappoints me immensely as I know that many of the individuals I work with are people that in the past have made mistakes or wrong decisions; they’re not habitual offenders, they just want to put the past behind them and move on.

However I’ve recently worked with an employer who has taken such a sensible approach to recruitment that I felt it was important to share it. Not only with the other employers I engage with who might be reviewing their recruitment practices and policies but, also people who are currently looking for work in the hope that this will make them feel a lot more positive about the future.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of the individuals criminal record or name the employer involved. All I’ll say is that I’ve been working with this particular young man for a while (I’ll call him Jason) and he has a criminal record that he no longer needs to disclose to an employer. However, due to the huge amount of media interest in his case (the offence was a serious one) details of it can easily be found online if anybody ‘googles’ him.

Recently, Jason was invited to attend an interview, working shifts for a small distribution company. The company were based very close to where his offence took place and there was every possibility that Jason would come into contact with people who knew about his past.

He was concerned that if he were offered the job, the employer could find out about his criminal record (either from the internet, or someone else) and so, against my advice, at the end of the interview he chose to disclose.

He made it clear to the employer that he didn’t need to do so but he wanted to be completely up front and honest and wanted the employer to be aware of all the circumstances before making a decision. The employer thanked him for his honesty and said he’d be in touch.

When Jason told me what he’d done there was a part of me that really admired his honesty but I couldn’t help thinking that he’d probably blown his chances with the employer. I’d worked with them for a while and although they’d recruited others with a criminal record, these had generally been for quite low level offences. To my surprise, Jason was invited in for a further discussion.

The employer made it clear to Jason that they believed his offence to be a serious one especially as it had been against a vulnerable person. They explained that some of his shifts may involve him working unsupervised with just one other person which gave them some cause for concern. However, they felt that measures could be put in place which would mitigate any risk and Jason was offered a full time position with them.

I’m not sure that Jason realises quite how big a deal this was for the employer. Although he didn’t need to disclose once he had, most employers would have found it difficult to forget what they’d heard. But not this company. They were looking for reasons to employ him, not reasons to reject him.

I know the employer has no regrets about giving Jason a job and to date, nobody has bought his criminal record to their attention (not that it would matter now if they did). The employer knew that Jason was the right person for the job but were happy to share their concerns about the potential risk he may pose. Understanding these risks allowed measures to be put in place to protect both parties.

Anyone reading this who has a criminal record will no doubt applaud the recruitment policies of this particular employer but other employers take note – diversity promotes a better and more inviting working environment. So don’t just think of diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education and natural origin – think criminal record too.

By Susie (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

Although Unlock’s golden rule is “only disclose if you’re asked”, there are lots of reasons why people choose to disclose even when they’re not asked or don’t need to. Like Jason, the main reason is because of information which can be found by an employer online. If you’re on licence or serving a community order, disclosing to an employer may be a condition of probation and if you know that an employer is going to carry out a formal criminal record check then you may want to disclose before an employer has sight of your DBS certificate.

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on  Information on disclosing criminal records to employers.
  • Discuss – There are some interesting discussions on this issue on our online forum.

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