Business leaders want more to be done to improve knowledge and understanding around recruiting ex-offenders, according to a new report from Business in the Community (BITC).

The ‘What’s the Risk? Employing Young Adults with Criminal Convictions’ report consulted eight high-profile UK employers, including Marks and Spencers, Timpsons and Lend Lease, that are pioneering successful employment schemes for groups facing barriers to work. However, these companies say there is a lack of adequate publicly shared information on how companies should make recruitment decisions when hiring offenders.

The report calls for more and better sharing of good practice among employers; a formal employers’ forum through which to promote this good practice; and guidance on risk management to support businesses who want to employ more ex-offenders. The report comes as the Government prepares to respond to its consultation on the sentencing Green Paper, which called on employers to create more avenues into work for ex-offenders.

According to figures from Working Links, fewer than two in ten UK employers have knowingly employed ex-offenders. However, nine in ten state that they are open to doing so in principle. BITC says this mismatch could be due to prejudice on the part of employers, pointing to the need for programmes and incentives to influence employer behaviour.

Edwina Hughes, Campaign Manager for Reducing Re-offending, Business in the Community, said:
“We are delighted that the Government has officially recognised the vital role employers play in reducing re-offending rates. Clearly there is a lot of excellent work already taking place amongst UK employers but at the moment these are isolated pockets of success. Businesses need encouragement and support to share their experiences on how to work safely and constructively with young adults who have been in trouble with the law.”

James Timpson, Managing Director of Timpson, said:
“At Timpson, we selectively recruit both men and women directly from prison. We have over 100 examples of ex offenders who have quickly become a crucial part of the shops team and have not returned to their previous criminal past. It’s great seeing their personalities come to life as their confidence grows.”