I noticed with interest an excellent recent article on Recruiter.co.uk that had some scary statistics. A mind boggling 9.2 million people in the UK have a criminal record and business-led charity Business in the Community (BITC) is launching a campaign supported by retailer Boots calling UK firms to ‘Ban the Box’ and remove the tick box from application forms that asks jobseekers about criminal convictions.
They point out that a conviction could be (for example) a motoring related offence that could have no impact on their ability to be effective in a job role. By forcing the candidate to tick a box on the initial application form (by law for 5 years) they are usually excluded immediately from the search. Someone that has had a prison sentence of two and a half years must tick the box for life!
In my local area we currently have as many job vacancies (11,000) as we do unemployed, so in theory we could be at zero unemployment. What I don’t know is how many local people have a criminal conviction but going by the national number I expect the figure must me about 11,000!
In my view, there will always be a proportion of the community that will exclude themselves from the job market through addiction or criminal activity but by tarring every conviction with exactly the same brush we simply drive more people into addiction and criminality.
At the moment the temptation for the convicted applicant is to lie and hope the employer does not do a background check. I expect many organisations have employees with convictions but have no idea! I wonder what impact this could have in terms of insurance claims if an employee with a hidden record steals the takings?
As we move into a period of sustained recovery we will need to grow our businesses with staff that are motivated and effective. Is a blanket ban on criminal disclosure (unless for specific roles) the best way of at least allowing people with convictions get to the interview stage? Here they will have the chance to explain the circumstances of their conviction and show remorse if appropriate.
Boots are saying that they will seek to have removed all tick boxes by early next year and in the interim no candidate will be eliminated on the basis of their conviction alone.
The Ban the Box campaign includes a video bringing to life how quickly ex-offenders can be dismissed by mimicking YouTube’s ‘skip ad’ button. This was created by Dougal Wilson, well known for his Christmas ad campaigns for retailer John Lewis, alongside ad agency Leo Burnett.
I am going to spread the word on the Ban the Box campaign and encourage organisations to support this worthwhile initiative.