Why more UK businesses are offering employment for ex-offenders in 2023
Simon Blockley

4 minutes

Why more UK businesses are offering employment for ex-offenders in 2023

The world of work is negatively impacted by employers bypassing underrepresented groups, despite a massive skills shortage. 42% of employers have hard-to-fill vacancies, with the most prevalent within education and healthcare. Employers have responded by upskilling existing employees, increasing wages, and offering incentives but these underrepresented groups potentially offer a new pool of talent, ready to fill gaps.

Ex offenders are one such group. Only 17% of ex-offenders are in work within 12 months of leaving prison and if this number could be increased, not only could the UK cut reoffending by at least 9%, but labour shortages could also be reduced. Employers are starting to see the possibilities of offering employment for ex-offenders as we work our way through 2023.

Despite one in three UK businesses in the private sector not currently employing any ex-offenders, nearly two thirds of them would or are planning to employ one in 2023. This is according to a new study commissioned by Sodexo, the facilities management and food services group which runs six UK prisons on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Scottish Prison Service. Only just over one in five UK businesses say that they would not.

When businesses were asked about concerns, leading answers included concern about re-offending, the safety of the rest of their workforce, and if ex-offenders could be trusted to behave appropriately at work.

However, giving ex-offenders a second chance at a career can be in everyone’s interests. The economic and social cost of reoffending in England and Wales alone is around £18 billion per year and on a personal level for employers, studies have shown that employees with criminal records were less likely to quit a job, and in general, were no more likely to be fired than employees without records.

Promoting employment for ex-offenders to UK businesses

Ban the box

Most of us have had to tick or not tick a box at the very first stage of the job application process to declare criminal convictions. BITC’s Ban the Box campaign calls on UK employers to give people with criminal records an equal and fair chance to compete for jobs by removing this tick box from application forms to avoid stereotyping. It encourages employers to instead ask about criminal convictions later in the recruitment process.

Should employers take this step, they will be saving themselves from their own preconceptions and potentially finding an employee perfect for a role that just needs to be given a second chance.

Government initiatives to encourage employment for ex-offenders

New Futures Network is the specialist part of His Majesty's Prison and Probation service that brokers partnerships between prisons and employers. These partnerships help employers fill skills gaps and provide work for serving prisoners and prison leavers.

They aim to create 91 Employment Advisory Boards (EABs), to connect employers with resettlement prisons, driving engagement with events and workshops.

Joining Prison Employment Advisory Boards to promote the power of work

I am extremely proud to work for an organisation that is committed to driving social value in the communities we serve. In my role as EAB Chair of His Majesty's Prison (HMP) and Young Offenders Institute (YOI) Chelmsford, I drive campaigns to get Chelmsford’s prison leavers into stable jobs so they can break the cycle of crime.

Prison Employment Advisory Boards play a vital role in our society and economy because prison leavers with a job are much less likely to reoffend. They are crucial in tackling the cost of reoffending, cutting crime and boosting public protection, as ex-offenders in steady jobs within 6 months of leaving prison are nine percentage points less likely to commit further crime. I’m looking forward to the challenge and to acting as a link between Chelmsford prison and employers in the region.”

Looking to get involved in employing ex-offenders in your business?

Sign up to attend HMP Chelmsford's Employment Summit on 27th September 2023. You will be able to explore existing opportunities for men upon release, meet with employers, providers and current prisoners, and discover how you can fit into our journey supporting men into sustainable employment to reduce reoffending.

Register now.

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