Be someone’s second chance: Hire people with previously held convictions

5 min read | Harry Gooding | Article | Recruiting

hiring people with convicted

The UK unemployment rate currently sits at 4.2%, yet for the overwhelming majority (83%) of people with previously held convictions, securing a job within the first year of their release from prison is proving elusive.

As it stands, 43% of UK employers say they’re struggling to fill 10+ vacancies, and the hospitality industry is especially under pressure, with 16% of employers in this sector facing challenges filling between 31-40 openings. For the 93% of employers who’ve experienced skills shortages in the past year, according to our 2023 Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide – people with previously held convictions make up a massive pool of under-utilised talent that could be tapped into.


Key takeaways:

  • People who secure a job after prison are 9 percentage points less likely to reoffend.
  • Almost one-third (30%) of employers would automatically reject a candidate for having an unspent conviction.
  • More than 80% of employers who hire people with previously held convictions are pleased with their reliability, motivation, attendance, and performance.
  • People often gain valuable skills, experience and qualifications while in prison, which can be highly transferrable for jobs on the outside world.


Breaking the misconceptions

Recent research by Sodexo found that of the employers who have no plans to hire people with previously held convictions, a quarter (25%) are concerned they would re-offend. However, this apprehension may be counterproductive, since prison leavers are in fact 9 percentage points less likely to reoffend if they get a job after prison. Organisations hiring amongst this demographic could actually reduce people’s likelihood of reoffending, potentially creating a great benefit to wider society.

“Almost one-third (30%) of employers say they would automatically reject a candidate who declared an unspent conviction, but only 15% admit it’s actually company policy to do so.”

Nearly a quarter (23%) say that their reluctance to hire people with previously held convictions stems from a concern that they wouldn’t trust them to behave appropriately in the workplace, but more than 80% of those with prison leavers currently on their payroll say they’re pleased with their reliability, motivation, attendance, and performance.


Prison education generates skilled workers

Prison life can often provide ample opportunity for people to improve their prospects and gain invaluable qualifications to better equip them for the outside world. Most prisoners are given the opportunity to undertake certifications such as GCSEs and NVQs, as well as learn new skills through activities and paid work, such as electrical engineering, catering, and manufacturing. One such example is HMP Bronzefield, where prison life is heavily focused on learning and development. Some of the opportunities they offer include hair and beauty training, a college-level catering programme, and a housekeeping course – these all provide prisoners with the chance to get valuable hands-on experience and achieve industry-recognised qualifications.

Many prisons provide a wealth of opportunities for people to gain valuable skills and experience whilst serving their time there, so it’s important that employers understand the potential professional benefits that this chapter can provide.


Give someone a second chance, today

The simplest way to ensure your organisation is giving people with previously held convictions a fair chance at securing employment is to make sure that, where possible, they’re not being automatically rejected for vacancies solely because they ticked the ‘unspent conviction’ box. The decision to remain impartial – judging on aptitude, rather than forming preconceived notions based on their past – could be a highly beneficial one.

As well as opening up your vacancies to people with previously held convictions, you can also actively help them into employment by partnering with prisons and providing people with jobs upon their release. Registering with the New Futures Network, a service that brokers these life-changing partnerships, could help people in real need of a second chance build themselves healthy, happy and professionally-satisfying lives.


To find out more about how to ensure your recruitment strategy is welcoming, positive and inclusive for all, including people with previously held convictions, then enquire about our DE&I advisory service.

 

About this author

Harry Gooding - Director, Hays Skills & Learning

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