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Ban the Box: UK employers must stop discriminating against ex-offenders

The charity Business in the Community is calling on UK employers to remove the default criminal-record disclosure tick box from job application forms – as part of its & lsquo;Ban the Box’ campaign launching today to address the discrimination faced by job-seeking ex-offenders.

9.2 million people – one in five of the population – in the UK have criminal records, yet research suggests that three-quarters of employers admit to using a criminal conviction to discriminate against an applicant, meaning that millions of job seekers are blocked from employment.  & lsquo;Ban the Box’, which is backed by Alliance Boots, will ask UK employers to stop this discrimination and assess job seekers on their skills and abilities first, rather than excluding them because of an unrelated conviction.  Employers can request positive disclosure of unspent criminal convictions as required at a later stage in the application process after the initial skills assessment. 

Ban the Box aims to enable more ex offenders to access work, whilst also addressing the estimated &pound11 billion per year annual cost of re-offending as employment is proven to reduce the likelihood of re-offending by up to 50%. 

“Ban the Box is about challenging the perception that people with unspent convictions inherently bring exceptional risk as employees,” said Edwina Hughes, campaign manager for reducing re-offending at Business in the Community. “Using the blunt instrument of a tick box, employers reject passionate, skilled employees. That could range from anyone who has received a &pound300 fine for a driving offence and will have to tick the box for five years, to someone with a prison sentence of more than 2.5 years who has to tick the box for the rest of their life. In the past ten years, no progress has been made on stopping this discrimination in the UK. Now is the time for action - employers must open their doors to new talent and take a simple first step in levelling the playing field.”

Daley aged 31 is an ex-offender employed at the Camden Garden Centre as a trainee, said: “Any future employer can ask me if I have an unspent conviction and I have to tell them. I think that’s fair enough. The problem is that once an employer sees that tick box, lots of them are already ruling you out.  They are already thinking this guy is trouble.  What they don’t see is me, my new life, what I’ve done since I came out of prison and how I could be a great employee.  The tick box is definitely a barrier for me to get to interview.”

“If individuals are diverted away from the trap of re-offending and into employment, they become positive contributors to their local area and the economy,” said Stephen Howard, Chief Executive of Business in the Community.  “The ex-offender population is includes a large number of dedicated, motivated and diverse potential employees, who continue to be excluded by blanket screening procedures or put off from applying for roles as they believe ticking the & lsquo;X’ puts them out of the running.  Through Ban the Box we are asking UK business to act responsibly and open up their talent pipeline to give everybody the opportunity to compete for jobs equally.” 

Marco Pagni, Group Legal Counsel & Chief Administrative Officer, Alliance Boots, said: “Ban the Box is the right thing for business to do.  It allows people to be assessed on their skills and abilities rather than pre-judged on their criminal convictions.  By removing a tick box at the first stage of the recruitment process, we are giving people the opportunity to compete for jobs and be assessed alongside all other candidates.” 

Business in the Community’s Ban the Box is calling for the following actions:

Employers  

Remove the default tick box requesting information on unspent criminal convictions from online and paper job application processes, where the role does not legally require a full criminal records check.

Examine existing policies and practices relating to the recruitment of people with criminal convictions and identify how disclosure of criminal convictions can be moved further down the application process.

Publically declare the removal of the default tick box on corporate websites and application forms, to highlight that you do not discriminate against ex offenders. This will encourage ex-offenders to apply without fear of being screened out.

Keep the checks and processes that are legally required when recruiting for “regulated” roles as defined by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), such as jobs with children or vulnerable adults, for which a full criminal records check with the DBS is essential.  

Employees

Contact HR departments and urge them to check or revise company policies and practice on employing ex offenders. A template email is available here: www.bitc.org.uk/banthebox

Sign Business in the Community’s Change.org petition to get UK employers to remove the default tick box from job application forms

Ex-offenders

Share your experiences of job seeking and the impact of tick box disclosure with Business in the Community to help build up a national picture of this issue.

In support of the campaign, leading advertising agency, Leo Burnett Change and award-winning film director  Dougal Wilson have partnered with Business in the Community to produce an interactive film that mimics the & lsquo;skip ad’ box on online videos to demonstrate how quickly people with unspent criminal convictions are dismissed and the impact on their confidence:

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