BITC and Boots urge UK businesses to ‘Ban the Box’ for criminal records

Business-led charity Business in the Community (BITC) is launching a campaign spearheaded with Boots calling on UK firms to ‘Ban the Box’ and remove the tick box from application forms that asks jobseekers about criminal convictions.

Wed, 16 Oct 2013
Business-led charity Business in the Community (BITC) is launching a campaign spearheaded with Boots calling on UK firms to ‘Ban the Box’ and remove the tick box from application forms that asks jobseekers about criminal convictions.

With 9.2m people in the UK holding a criminal record, Edwina Hughes, the campaign manager for reducing re-offending at BITC, says: “Using the blunt instrument of a tick box, employers reject passionate, skilled employees.” It also costs the taxpayer more, as unemployed ex-offenders are far more likely to re-offend, BITC notes.

This can range from someone who has received a £300 fine for a driving offence and has to tick the box for five years, to someone with a prison sentence of more than two and a half years who has to tick the box for the rest of their life.

"I think at the moment there is a feeling that, 'oh, if the check is available then we should do it'," she says.

Marco Pagni, group legal counsel and chief administrative officer at Alliance Boots, the parent company of the high street retailer, says: “We are systematically looking at all roles in the company to ensure that we are only seeking disclosure on application forms for those roles that fall within the DBS’s [Disclosure and Barring Service’s] definition of ‘regulated’ roles.”

Boots will seek to have removed all tick boxes by early next year, he says, although adds that “in the interim no candidate will be eliminated on the basis of their conviction alone”. Hughes continues to be seconded to Boots on a part-time basis

Companies are also asked to publically highlight their commitment and share best practice, and individuals are asked to contact their HR departments and urge them to join the campaign.

The owner of design agency True Story, Jayne Mayled, part of Boots’ supply chain, tells recruiter.co.uk: “We’re a professional services business, so our people are our product; we want to know we have the widest range of good people available.”

And she points out that “many organisations have these people [with criminal convictions] in their organisations already, but they don’t know it”.

“Don’t reduce your to-do list by knocking people off at the first hurdle”, she concludes.

Rick Mower, the chief executive officer of Aspire Oxfordshire, a former Recruiter charity of choice, which works to get people into work who have a variety of irregular employment backgrounds, says he agrees that “employers are missing out on some highly motivated, talented employees, with broad skill sets, that would add value to their operations”.

“It's simply unfair to apply a 'tick box' system to 'offenders' as there are so many different factors in-play around each case,” he says. “Removing the ‘tick box’ is a great step forward.”

Ban the Box includes a video bringing to life how quickly ex-offenders can be dismissed by mimicking YouTube’s ‘skip ad’ button. This was created pro bono by Dougal Wilson, well known for his Christmas ad campaigns for retailer John Lewis, alongside ad agency Leo Burnett.

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