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Fair Access to Employment

Everyone should have the ability to access secure employment. Unfortunately, people with criminal records face barriers to this in the form of prejudice, stigma and discrimination. Through our work supporting individuals, challenging employers and working with regulatory bodies, we want to see a future where every employer sees the person first – not their past.

The problem

Almost 12 million people in the UK have a criminal record and there is very little protection for people trying to move on positively with their lives. 75% of application forms ask about criminal records and 50% of employers admit to discriminating against applicants who disclose.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) enables most convictions can become ‘spent’ and therefore non-disclosable for most purposes. However employers continue to ask about spent convictions – either because they are unsure of the complex disclosure rules, or because there is nothing to stop them doing so. The ROA provides no penalty for using spent criminal records without authority. Standard and enhanced DBS checks, legally permitted for sensitive roles and occupations, disclose spent criminal records and there is evidence that unlawful use of these checks is used to discriminate against applicants with spent convictions.

People with old and irrelevant criminal records are often discouraged from applying for jobs. However, employers cannot afford to ignore the diverse talent of people with criminal records

What needs to change

  • Employers include people with criminal records as part of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Employers that use criminal record information improve their policies and practices so that they are fairer and more inclusive.
  • Government has innovative policies to increase recruitment of people with criminal records. 
  • People with convictions are not discouraged from applying for jobs due to their criminal record.

What we’re doing

Phases 1 and 2 of our fair access to employment work was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, enabling us to challenge the discrimination faced by people with convictions in getting employment and support progressive employers in developing fairer polices and practices. We aim for long-term change in employer attitudes and practices by;

  • Promoting ‘fair chance recruitment’ policies, an approach which originates from the United States and which has ‘Ban the Box’ at the heart of changes in the recruitment practice of employers.
  • Improving the policies and practices of employers by:
    • Working positively and proactively with larger employers, engaging at senior levels
    • Developing a range of practical information and resources for employers to use to help them to recruit people with criminal records.

Are you an employer?

Visit our website Recruit! for information and resources on fair chance recruitment

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12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

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