Employers urged to drop criminal convictions from application forms

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 9 March 2017 in News

Ban the Box campaign recruits major employers to protect against "unconscious bias" against those with convictions

Cynthia Fry speaking at Holyrood's Tackling Poverty Locally event - credit Alistair Kerr/Holyrood

Dozens of public and private sector employers — including the UK Civil Service — have stopped asking jobseekers if they have criminal convictions.

Virgin Trains, Amey, Carillion, Boots, Barclays and Sodexo are among the employers who have agreed to “Ban The Box” that job applicants normally tick to declare their past crimes.

The campaign is designed to tackle discrimination against people with convictions who are trying to turn their life around.


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Applicants may still be asked about previous convictions at a later stage, but the omission on the form initially puts them on a level playing field.

Delegates at a Tackling Poverty Locally conference in Paisley, organised by Holyrood and Renfrewshire Council, were encouraged to lobby their employers to “Ban The Box” in their organisations.

The conference heard that the proportion of working age people in poverty has not changed in the last 20 years, and young men in their twenties are at most risk of destitution.

Dr Cynthia Fry, campaign manager at Business in the Community Scotland, said: “Ban The Box is working with employers to get rid of the tick-box that asks for previous convictions at the very initial stage of the application.

“Quite often there is a lot of discrimination against individuals just on that first step — if they tick the box they never get a second look.

“So we’re asking employers to get rid of that box until further down the line, when it becomes essential to know whether they have a conviction, what sort of conviction they may have and how that will affect their ability to do the job.

“We have about 76 employers who have already signed up to Ban The Box, including Amey, Boots, Barclays, Carillon, the Civil Service, Sodexo and Virgin Trains.

“That does have a great impact on the diversity and opportunities for people with past convictions in trying to get into the workforce.”

She added: “It’s about increasing the access at the interview stage, because we all have unconscious or conscious bias and by removing the box at that stage we found that there is a lot more diversity that makes it through.

 “Occasionally you will have individuals who aren’t actually able to take a job, because whatever their past conviction was will actually prohibit them from the role.

 “So they will have to ask the question eventually, but by moving it to later on in the process it does mean that they get a fairer shot at the job.”

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