Employers who hire ex-offenders

Oct 8, 2019

Unlocking the potential of the UK’s ex-offenders

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  • More than 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record
  • Many of them fall at the first hurdle when applying for jobs because they’re forced to disclose a record on application forms
  • Virgin Trains, Greggs, Timpson and Marks & Spencer have initiated programmes to rehabilitate ex-offenders and bring them back into the workplace

One remedy to the UK’s skills gap could be to hire more ex-offenders, so what’s the best way of going about this?

There are around 1.6 million unemployed people in the UK, defined as those who are eligible for and actively seeking work. Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported recently that there are about 750,000 unfilled jobs in the UK at any one time.

There are numerous reasons for this mismatch. The ‘skills gap’ is often bandied about as the primary factor – that people don’t have the appropriate knowledge for a certain role – but another possible, less discussed factor, could be employers’ reluctance to hire people with criminal records.

It might come as a surprise to learn that almost one in every six people in the UK has a criminal record. And many of these people report difficulties in finding a job because they are forced into disclosing this information during the recruitment process, often by ticking a box on the application form.

‘High-street heroes’


For SMEs reluctant to hire people with criminal records, inspiration is at hand, thanks to several big-name brands that are using more inclusive hiring practices – among them are Greggs, Timpson, Virgin Trains and Marks & Spencer.

“At Greggs, we believe that by not overlooking any potential employees because of their past, we can select the right person and develop them to their full potential,” says Roisin Currie, group people director at the bakery chain. “Our retention rate for ex-offenders via our Fresh Start programme in 2015 is 78%, which we are very proud of,” she says.

Please see HACRO’s Getting Ex-offenders into Work.