The 2023 Autumn statement is a missed opportunity to provide targeted support to remove barriers to employment for people with criminal records. Unlock submitted a proposal in response to the consultation for the Autumn statement. We suggested:
- That employment support staff (e.g. work coaches) be better trained to understand the challenges associated with having a criminal record, including for minor offences and not just for those who are leaving prison
- That government improve support for employers to develop more inclusive policies, and ensure people with criminal records are not unnecessarily barred from jobs
- Consider offering incentives to motivate employers to remove barriers to work for people with criminal records
There are over 12 million people in the UK with a criminal record. This is a huge talent pool that we know most employers overlook for recruitment and promotion, despite labour shortages across the economy.
In the context of the Autumn Statement, it is hard to ignore the obvious potential economic benefit of offering opportunities for stable, fulfilling work to this group.
With 41% of employers reporting hard-to-fill vacancies in Autumn 2023, recruiters can’t afford to miss out on these candidates. The government has estimated that reoffending costs the UK £18 billion per year, and it is well-evidenced that secure employment can decrease the likelihood of reoffending.
Attitudes to applicants with criminal records are changing for the better; in the last decade, the number of employers who say they would be willing to employ someone with a criminal record has nearly doubled. 86% of employers who have recruited people with criminal records reported this to be a positive experience.
But employers need support to improve practice – an area in which the government could do more. Criminal record disclosure legislation is complex and can be confusing. Government should help employers understand their obligations and recognise the barriers they are (often unintentionally) creating for those with a criminal record.
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