More than 11 million people in the UK have a criminal record – and yet according to a survey by YouGov, 50% of employers would not consider employing ex-offenders, regardless of the offence they committed or the sentence they received.

Clearly, ex-offenders represent a large talent pool that many employers are missing out on. While some ex-offenders are unsuitable to do certain types of work because of the nature of their offences, others are being unnecessarily overlooked.

When employing ex-offenders, DBS checks play a crucial role in determining a candidate’s suitability for the position in question. Here are some tips to help you ensure your organisation treats ex-offenders fairly in the recruitment process.

Employing ex-offenders: In numbers

First of all, here are some interesting facts and figures relating to employing ex-offenders:

  • 97% of offenders express a desire to stop offending
  • Employment has been proven to reduce reoffending by 33-50%
  • 68% of offenders state that having a job would be an important factor in preventing them reoffending

Recruitment of ex-offenders policy

It’s good practice for organisations to have a recruitment of ex-offenders policy in place, to ensure job applicants with a criminal history are treated fairly and not discriminated against. The policy should also aim to safeguard staff, clients, service users and visitors.

Your policy should outline how you’ll gather criminal record information from potential employees, and how this information will be used.

The DBS has produced a sample policy for organisations to adapt and use.

When to carry out a DBS check

As we mentioned previously, there are some offences which make candidates unsuitable to do certain types of work. DBS checks are vital in helping organisations ascertain whether or not a candidate’s criminal history should prevent them from doing a role.

For some roles, a DBS check is a legal requirement. Any role which involves engaging in regulated activity with children and/or vulnerable adults will require the applicant to have an enhanced DBS check.

This will ascertain whether the applicant has been barred from working with the relevant vulnerable group. It’s an offence to employ a person to work with children or vulnerable adults if they’ve been barred from doing so.

Other roles require a standard DBS check. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 includes a list of specific professions which are eligible for a standard DBS check. The list includes lawyers, accountants and some roles in prisons and courts, among others.

If you’re unsure whether a DBS check is warranted, conduct a risk assessment of the role and consult the DBS eligibility guidance.

If a DBS check is required, state clearly in the job description that this is the case so applicants are aware their criminal history will be revealed and can prepare accordingly.

Employing ex-offenders: How to treat criminal record information

Unless they’ve been barred from working with children or vulnerable adults, ex-offenders shouldn’t necessarily be excluded from employment or volunteering.

If you have an applicant with a criminal record, think carefully about whether their criminal history affects their suitability for the role. It’s illegal to discriminate against an applicant on the basis of their criminal record if it isn’t relevant.

Ask the following questions:

  • What’s the nature of the role?
  • Is the offence relevant to the role?
  • What’s the nature of the offence, and how serious is it?
  • How old was the applicant at the time they offended?
  • How long has it been since the offence occurred?
  • Was the offence revealed at the application stage? (Remember, applicants aren’t necessarily legally obliged to disclose their criminal history.)

State clearly in the job description and other communications during the recruitment process that people with criminal records are welcome to apply, and that convictions won’t necessarily exclude them.

Employing ex-offenders: A summary

Employing ex-offenders can have a positive impact for both those with criminal records and the organisations that employ them.

By reviewing policies and procedures around the recruitment of ex-offenders, organisations can gain a competitive advantage.

For more information on employing ex-offenders, see the guidance provided by social justice charity Nacro.

Our blogs are advisory in nature and reflect M G Care Executive Limited trading as uCheck's current thinking about best and common practice in the subjects discussed.

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