How to Employ

At Release Scotland we promote a fair and equitable recruitment process to ensure people with convictions have a fair chance of gaining employment.

What you need to know

There are lots of different ways that, as employers, we can open our doors to people with convictions. It might be as simple as signing up to Ban the Box to signal that a person’s record won’t prevent them from getting a job. Or it might involve actively recruiting in prisons. Whatever your approach, there are lots of practical issues it is worth thinking about, from understanding the law to having a recruitment process that is clear, supportive and inclusive. We’ve pulled together some guidance and insights from employers in the Release Scotland network to help your organisation benefit from the talents of people with convictions.

“If I didn’t have this, I would probably be back in prison.”

Laura, Freedom Unlimited Enterprises

Below are the steps to follow. Click on the subjects to read more.

Employing people with convictions

The application stage

Release Scotland believe employers should encourage applications from people with convictions, and ensure that recruitment practices do not act as a barrier.

During the application stage, it is important that your organisation makes it clear when people need to disclose convictions, and how they should go about doing so. Employers should avoid requesting this information too early in the process as that may well discourage able candidates from applying.

It is also important to have a process of engagement which gives the individual the opportunity to talk through the wider cicrunstances of any conviction disclosed. This is so a well informed decision can be made and so the candidate feels they are being treated fairly and as an individual.

The recruitment process

It is always advisable for your organisation to seek external advice and examples of best practice from experts. There are many charities and support organisations which will help advise you, and by building links with in the community with other organisations, local prisons, and criminal justice services, you can tap into an availability of new recruits.

Ensure your organisation is clear on what you are looking for. Be clear on the requirements of the job and the desired skillset of the candidate.

The interview stage

Focus on each person’s abilities, skills, experience, and qualifications. Do they meet the requirements of the job? If so, they may be the person you should select.

It is important to have a clear and fair decision making process to decide on how to deal with an application from someone with a conviction.

Confidentiality is key for candidates. Where an individual does disclose a conviction this should only be discussed with those who need to know.

Making the decision

Conducting a risk assessment is an integral part of making the decision. The potentially suitable candidate should not be refused employment on the basis of an offence that has no relevance to the job. Consider the nature of the conviction and the relevance to the job.

When considering the relevance of a criminal record, it is important to concentrate on aspects such as: the seriousness of the offence, the background circumstances, whether the job requires direct access to the public, the length of time since the offence, the work environment, the extent of job supervision, and the change the candidate has gone through or the candidate’s motivation to change.

Provide a supportive work environment

There are other ways in which employers can help support people with convictions into the working world. Small adjustments can increase the chances of a successful working relationship, such as:

Starting the person on a part-time basis before gradually increasing to full-time; Offering shorter shifts initially before gradually increasing the shift length; Ensuring proper support is given by managers to the individual; Ensuring proper training is provided to the individual to help them feel prepared for the job; Offer a placement to someone who is released on licence from an open prison.

In addition, employers may also want to consider whether they can provide mentoring support within their organisation, for example assigning an internal 1-to-1 mentor to help the individual adjust to both their new role and the working environment.

Remember – a no does not have to always be a no. Consider voluntary placements and suggestions on how the individual could develop their skills and experience. When making a positive recruitment decision, ensure your HR teams can offer ongoing support.

Ensure only those in the business who need to know are informed of an individual’s relevant convictions.

Ban the box

Business in the Community’s Ban the Box campaign calls on employers to remove the tick box from application forms that asks about criminal convictions. Ban the Box employers consider applicants’ skills, attributes and ability to do the job before asking about criminal records. Sign up to join more than 125 UK employers who are giving people with convictions a chance.

You can visit Recruit!, a website for employers supporting the fair treatment of people with criminal records here.

Ongoing support

Getting the right person into a role is the first step. But then you want to they succeed and develop in that post, helping your organisation succeed. There are places you can go for help and advice on how to support people with convictions on an ongoing basis – we’ve listed some of the main ones below.

Virgin Trains
The Wise Group
Apex Scotland
Unlock Employment
Scottish Canals
Positive Prison and Positive Futures
Scottish Government
Skills Development Scotland
Sue Ryder
Glasgow Together
Scottish Prison Service
Access to Industry
Alloa Community Enterprises Ltd
ARMY Be The Best
Social Firms Scotland