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11 million people in the UK have a criminal record and 75% of employers admit to rejecting a job application once a criminal conviction is disclosed, a recent study shows.

Following the study, conducted for the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice, employers are being urged to stop asking job applicants to disclose via the application form whether they have a criminal record. The aim is to reduce the number who are rejected before their application has been properly considered.

Why Should Employers Consider Applicants with a Criminal Record?

The research suggests that a person with a criminal conviction which is several years old is no more likely to commit an offence than a person without a criminal record.

It is argued that employers should ask about criminal convictions further into the recruitment process and should do more to assess whether a conviction genuinely affects a person’s suitability for the role for which they have applied.

A number of employers, including Virgin Trains, have removed such questions from their application form.

However, employers in some sectors have a requirement to ask about criminal convictions during the recruitment process and so may be unable to take this step. Schools for example must carry out criminal records checks on all those they appoint to carry out regulated activity with children. Indeed, statutory safer recruitment guidance for schools has required them to ask questions about criminal records in the application form as a means of deterring unsuitable candidates from applying.

What Should Employers Be Doing?

If you choose to continue asking for criminal records information in the application form, you should consider having a detailed recruitment policy, with a section on the recruitment of ex-offenders explaining how you assess the suitability of candidates with a criminal record. This could include the nature of the offence, the relevance to the role applied for, how old the offence is and whether an individual’s circumstances have changed since it was committed.

You can continue to reject applications on the basis of a criminal record without taking these steps. However, giving more thought to the situation may open up a wider range of suitable candidates for a role.

Kathy Halliday is a Partner at award-winning law firm VWV. Kathy can be contacted on 0121 227 3711 or at khalliday@vwv.co.uk.