Moving on: Employment after release

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on employment after release.

A copy of the article can be found below.

On release from prison, and possibly for some time after, your conviction will be technically ‘unspent’ – this means you’ll need to disclose it to an employer if you’re asked about it. Depending on the sector you want to work in, it may be more difficult to secure work with an unspent conviction. However, more and more employers are starting to recognise the value that people with convictions bring to the workplace.

Where can you find help to get into work?

As well as the jobcentre and work programme providers, there are recruitment agencies who specialise in finding work for people with convictions. These include Chance 2013, Working Chance (specifically for women with convictions) and Prosper4 (providing a digital job board).

To make sure you get the most benefit from these organisations, we’d always recommend that you tell them the details of your unspent conviction. By voluntarily disclosing your criminal record, you’re placing a lot of trust in your advisor. However, they’re all bound by confidentiality policies and the Data Protection Act and they will definitely appreciate your honesty.

Some employers have blanket bans on recruiting people with unspent convictions, so if your conviction is unspent, then applying for jobs with these employers would be a waste of both their time and yours. However, if you don’t disclose to your jobcentre advisor and they believe you have the necessary skills and experience to do the job, then you’ll usually be expected to apply. If you refuse, you may be sanctioned and lose your benefits for a while. If you disclose your unspent convictions to your advisor you can potentially avoid situations like this.

Friendly employers

Many employers consider individuals with convictions on merit and actively encourage applications from people with convictions. To try to ensure that people with a criminal record get the most positive start to their applications, a number of companies have signed up to the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign. This includes companies like Barclays Bank, Boots, Costain and the Civil Service. These companies have removed the tick box from application forms which ask about convictions – meaning that all applicants are treated the same and given the same opportunity at that stage in the recruitment process.

Several years ago, Unlock started to develop a list of those employers that are known to recruit people with convictions from the community and those that have established direct links with prisons. These include for example, Timpsons, Greggs, Cisco Systems and DHL. The list is available to download at hub.unlock.org.uk/friendly or by contacting the Unlock helpline.

However, it’s important not to limit yourself to only applying to these companies. There are many employers that regularly recruit people with convictions but don’t necessarily publicise the fact.

Other issues with getting into work

Very few people are banned from working in certain jobs. Generally, the decision whether to employ you is left to the employer. However if, as a result of your conviction, you have been placed on the children’s or adult’s barred list then you’ll be breaking the law if you seek to work in ‘regulated’ activity with a group from which you are barred.

Also, if you’re on licence one of the standard licence conditions is “Not undertake work, or a particular type of work, unless it is approved by the supervising officer and notify the supervising officer in advance of any proposal to undertake work or a particular type of work”.

The majority of probation officers recognise the importance that work plays in helping to turn lives around and so will often be happy to approve employment unless there are very good reasons why they shouldn’t (for example if you’d be working for a company which could bring you into direct contact with your victim). However, calls to our helpline show that this isn’t always the case. If your probation officer refuses you permission to work for a certain employer or in a certain role, they should provide you with the reason for their decision. If you don’t believe the decision is justified then you may want to consider challenging it. However, before formally appealing ask your probation officer to put their reasons for refusal in writing; you’ll then be completely clear about what you’re appealing.

What does the future hold?

Getting a job with a criminal record is likely to be challenging but definitely not impossible. Many businesses are already raising concerns about the potential lack of workers when the UK leaves the EU in 2019, with many being actively encouraged to consider the talent that many people with convictions have to offer.

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Debbie Sadler