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Give ex-offenders a chance, says charity

Tick boxes on job application forms asking candidates about criminal convictions are fairly routine. But are they routinely fair?

The campaigning charity Business in the Community (BITC) thinks that they aren't fair, and shouldn't be routinely used in applications - except for 'regulated roles', such as those working with children or vulnerable adults.

BITC said that if the box is ticked, three-quarters of employers will 'discriminate against' an applicant. Many candidates with criminal convictions won't even bother applying if they see the box.

With one-fifth of the UK population aged 10 and above having a criminal record, it is an issue with much wider repercussions than many realise, the charity says. Convictions could encompass a minor driving offence to long-term prison sentence.

BITC said that everyone would benefit from getting rid of the box. Ex-offenders in employment are 50 per cent less likely to re-offend, representing major potential savings, given that recidivism is estimated to cost the taxpayer £11 billion each year. Furthermore, employers would be giving themselves the widest possible talent pool by making their recruitment process more open.

The charity wants UK employers to remove the default tick box, which is not a legal requirement, and to assess applicants on their merits, moving the disclosure of a conviction further down the recruitment process.

A good recruitment process will give applicants the chance to account for their criminal records and demonstrate how they have reformed. It will also be able to put the offence into context, to see if it has any relevance to the job.

Rejecting candidates out of hand could deny employers the chance to take on 'dedicated, motivated and diverse' people who want to 'contribute to society'.

Acas works with employers to help them understand how the Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010 are relevant to their recruitment and selection decisions. Acas also offers training on Recruitment issues, including selection and interviewing techniques.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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