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Ban the Box: Don't ignore potential of past offenders

Each year thousands of people are released from prison having completed their sentence and many more individuals receive convictions that result in court fines or community sentences.

The opportunity to start a new and productive life often depends on them finding a job, but they are entering a world in which they are not always seen as potential employees.

Often one of the first hurdles they have to overcome is a simple ‘tick box’ on the initial application form which asks if they have a criminal conviction.

All too often answering ‘yes’ results in the applicant being rejected at that first stage, before they even get a chance of an interview.

So does this make sense at a time when so many industries, including construction, are struggling to fill vacancies?

First steps

When Business in the Community launched the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign a year ago to encourage organisations to remove the criminal record disclosure tick box from application forms, Carillion was pleased to support this initiative.

“Banning the box doesn’t remove disclosure; it simply moves asking about convictions to later in the recruitment process”

As a business we are committed to helping people who have a criminal record re-enter the workforce and this campaign fitted well with that objective.

One year on we are delighted to see that 25 major employers with a combined workforce of 200,000 have banned the box, but we would like to see more, particularly from the construction sector, sign-up to the campaign.

To set this into context, one in five unemployed jobseekers has a criminal conviction; if just 5 per cent of UK private sector employers followed the lead of the 25 companies who have already signed up to ‘Ban the Box’, more than one million jobs would be made more accessible.

Objective judgements

Banning the box doesn’t remove disclosure; it simply moves asking about convictions to later in the recruitment process, when candidates are being assessed on their suitability, skills and ability.

At Carillion we want to create a diverse and engaged workforce so we assess people who want to join us based on what they have to offer in the way of skills and experience, while ignoring other factors that may not be relevant to their ability to do a good job.  

We do explore with people their employment history once they are in the recruitment process, but aim to make an objective judgement about whether any previous criminal convictions present us with concerns, given the nature of the role for which the person is being considered.  

Given the challenge the construction industry is facing to recruit people as the sector recovers from recession, ignoring the potential locked away in past offenders is a missed opportunity. 

Businesses can find out more and sign up to the campaign at www.bitc.org.uk/banthebox

Janet Dawson is group HR director at Carillion

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