Could relaxing criminal checks aid recruitment?

As the Home Office prepares an appeal against a ruling that would significantly relax the rule around disclosure of an individual’s criminal records when applying for a job, Recruiter hears a more open attitude to criminal history could facilitate recruitment.

Wed, 30 Jan 2013

As the Home Office prepares an appeal against a ruling that would significantly relax the rule around disclosure of an individual’s criminal records when applying for a job, Recruiter hears a more open attitude to criminal history could facilitate recruitment.

Yesterday, senior judge Lord Dyson ruled that a 21-year-old man, who aged 11 had been handed two police warnings over the theft of bicycles, should not have had to reveal this in an application to university and a job – and that being forced to do so violated his human rights.

As an appeal from the Home Office is in place, a statement from the department says there will be no immediate changes to the Disclosure and Barring Service – the Home Office body created by the 1 December 2012 merger of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

A Home Office spokesperson, describing the government as “disappointed by this judgement”, says: "The protection of children and vulnerable groups must not be compromised.”

Andrew Thorne, managing director of social care recruiter Backstop, whose firm supplies people who work with children and vulnerable groups, tells Recruiter that “it is neither here nor there” if someone received a police caution when they are 10 or 11.

“If it is something like a police caution, I don’t think it is relevant, and it is pointless even knowing about it.”

He adds that the present system is an unnecessary barrier stopping potentially good workers entering the sector.

Recruiter’s 2012-13 chosen charity, Aspire Oxfordshire, works with individuals with a variety of disadvantaged and irregular backgrounds, many of which include criminal convictions, to give them experience of work and an opportunity to change their lives.

Speaking to Recruiter, chief executive officer Rick Mower notes: “Any blanket legislation like this is going to fall positively for some and negatively for others.”

And he also points out that going beyond the statutory requirements and assessing the actual circumstances of an individual is beneficial. “At Aspire we also have the opportunity of an ‘eyes-on’ in-house risk assessment on top of CRB checks when required, so we don’t miss out on a potentially great employee or member of staff just because they have a minor conviction that was out of character and from context that is years old,” he says – for example, if they were on or needing to get drugs.

Aspire takes on contracts from various organisations for services including gardening and property maintenance, with Mower saying: “Quite often when we’re going for a contract, the firm says ‘but you’re working with offenders’, and then we say ‘well, who are your existing suppliers and how do you know if they do or not?’.”

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