Employing Ex-Offenders – Viewpoint

Employing Ex-Offenders – Viewpoint

  • Date: Tuesday 10th November 2015

With 90,000 prisoners released each year across England and Wales and re-offending costing the Government £13 Billion per year, calls are going out to employers to proactively engage with this potentially highly skilled and often very engaged workforce.


  • A Prison Experience

Two years ago, I was privileged to take part in an Employer Engagement Day at HM Prison Channings Wood. During the day we received an introduction into the prison service, had two sessions on information stalls with inmates talking to us about job prospects following their release and also received a guided tour of the grounds.


Throughout the day, my view of prison life shifted dramatically and I realised that life in prison is not as ‘cushy’ as many of us believe it to be. Inmates benefit from regular meals, showers and clean beds to sleep in. They are able to engage in entrepreneurial programmes, learn new skills and gain qualifications. They can also earn privileges through positive behaviour and undertake paid work within the prison.


However, the feeling of somebody removing your ability to unlock a door and make a choice of where and when to go really brought home the element of punishment a prison sentence brings with it. Added to that, prisons develop a fragile sociological micro-climate and who inmates socialise with can make or break their progress and quality of day-to-day life behind bars.


The vast majority of people we spoke to were also worried about life after prison. Not only are they required to re-adjust to social and economic pressures, they are expected to do this with the stigma of crime firmly attached for a number of months or years and, in some cases, forever.


  • The Law

Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) in 2014 were confusing for most.

In terms of HR, the Act essentially prohibits employers or prospective employers to discriminate if the candidate or employee has a spent conviction, following a rehabilitation period. This means that once the conviction has been spent, employers may not consider it when contemplating a job offer, and ex offenders do not have to disclose it.


When a conviction is spent depends on the severity of the crime:



Buffer period for adults

(18 and over at the time of conviction or the time the disposal is administered).

This applies from the end date of the sentence (including the licence period).

Buffer period for young people (under 18 at the time of conviction or the time the disposal is administered). This applies from the end date of the sentence (including the licence period).

Custodial sentence* of over 4 years, or a public protection sentence

Never spent

Never spent

Custodial sentence of over 30 months (2 ½ years) and up to and including 48 months (4 years)

7 years

3½ years

Custodial sentence of over 6 months and up to and including 30 months (2 ½ years)

4 years

2 years

Custodial sentence of 6 months or less

2 years

18 months

Community order or youth rehabilitation order**

1 year

6 months


Public protection sentences mainly apply to dangerous sexual or violent offenders.


Under the Exceptions Order, any spent or unspent convictions have to be disclosed in some professions. The positions listed in the Exceptions Order mainly relate to areas such as work with children or other people in vulnerable circumstances, work in law enforcement and the legal system, and high level financial positions.


  • Impact

More success stories are now emerging from organisations who have benefited not only operationally but also ethically from supporting ex-offenders on their way back into society.

Clearly, education is important and engaging in placement programmes, rehabilitation or outright employment with individuals who have experienced violence, crime, substance abuse and gang pressures can be a challenging experience.


Thankfully, today’s prisons focus is on rehabilitation rather than plain punishment, and employers also have the opportunity to receive training, guidance and support through a number of government services and charities.


If you would like to learn more, please get in touch with your local authority or an employment support agency such as Unlock http://www.unlock.org.uk/for-employers/ or Catch22 http://www.catch-22.org.uk/


Source: Manuela Grossmann - SSG 



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