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New report shows that hiring managers are making decisions based on prejudice and not in line with their own organisational policy when rejecting candidates with convictions

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

A study commissioned by Working Chance, Progress & Prejudice: Shifts in UK employer attitudes towards people with convictions, an employment charity exclusively for women who have criminal convictions has shown that in the last six years, the proportion of employers who would not hire someone with a conviction has reduced significantly, from half to just over a quarter. The percentage of employers who say that they would, hypothetically, recruit someone with a conviction has increased. It’s now 45%, compared with 25% in 2010.

Twice as many employers now (compared with 2016) see that there ‘could be advantages’ to hiring someone with a conviction: 24% say there could be advantages, compared to 12% in 2016. The top three potential advantages they saw were: people with convictions would provide different perspectives; it would help to tackle skills and labour shortages; it would improve the organisation’s diversity and inclusion record.

However, 30% of employers say they would automatically exclude a candidate who declared an unspent conviction – even though only 15% said it was their organisation’s policy to immediately reject applicants declaring criminal records. This suggests that some hiring managers are making decisions based on prejudice and not in line with their own organisational policy.

People with convictions have the lowest interview to hire conversion rate, out of a range of groups generally considered to be disadvantaged in the labour market. Of the 270 employers in the sample who said that they would not hire someone with a conviction, the key concerns given that would ‘definitely’ affect their decision were, in order:

  • It might affect their organisation’s liability insurance
  • It would be against their organisation’s policy
  • The nature of the offence(s)
  • The risk of the person reoffending.

One in six adults in the UK has a criminal record. Employers who assume that these people are a risk to their business and have nothing to offer are losing out by failing to tap into this under-utilised talent pool.

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