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Organisations can’t be diverse or inclusive until HR professionals recognise the value of people with convictions

Despite having worked as a nurse for many years, Janice feels that HR departments are more interested in her conviction from 20 years ago than her abilities as a nurse.

I’ve been a nurse for over 11 years and have worked in the same hospital department for the last 10 years.

One of the great things about working as a nurse and, in particular, being part of the NHS was the fact that there was always the opportunity for career progression. With hard work, drive and motivation it was possible for somebody starting out as a staff nurse to move into executive and clinical leadership roles.

The application process was relatively simple too. When promotion opportunities became available, we’d drop an email to our matron expressing our interest. Those making the recruitment decisions knew that our training was up-to-date and that we’d have regular checks carried out relevant for our role. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t shown any favoritism, in some cases being known to the department really went against you. The only thing we could avoid was having to fill in lengthy application forms.

However, over the last 2 years things have changed and we now have to apply for all jobs through, a website which is independent of the NHS and the Department of Health. Every time I apply for a new role, I now have to disclose my conviction from 20 years ago and this has seemed to somewhat stall my career progression.

Trac have told me that they will discuss any disclosed convictions with the relevant appointing manager and from my own experience, the way that a person with a criminal record is perceived seems to have changed over time. When I applied for my first job with the Trust, I disclosed my conviction; it wasn’t an easy discussion but by then, my conviction was over 10 years old and the Trust presumably took the view that I had the necessary skills and experience and I did not pose any risk to my patients or colleagues.

Since the new process has come into force, I’ve applied for 3 promotions within my current department and have been unsuccessful in all of them. I’ve been told that I’m well qualified yet each job has gone to a less experienced person. It seems that after 20 years, my conviction is still more relevant to HR than my ability to do the job.

I feel like I’m being assessed again and again and my career is being continuously decided by a mistake I made over 20 years ago.

By Janice (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

As the role of a nurse is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, these employers can carry out enhanced criminal record checks. However, it seems as though Janice is being asked to self-disclose her criminal record prior to any recruitment decision being made which, under GDPR isn’t proportionate.

Sadly, Unlock regularly sees examples of employers who are either extremely risk averse or have a zero-tolerance approach to DBS checks. This is why our fair access to employment project continues to support employers in implementing fairer and more inclusive recruitment polices and procedures and challenge those who have unlawful recruitment practices.

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