This week I met a young man desperate to find work following his release from prison. He didn’t go into any details but it was clear that he understood that the need to obtain steady employment was the key to ensuring he didn’t reoffend and that he was willing to work hard to make that happen. When you meet one individual, who puts a real face onto a situation as opposed to being a statistic, it makes you realise the importance of employers being willing to give people a second chance.

We focus a lot on discrimination cases (I’ve seen so much attention this week on John McCririck’s age discrimination case that I am deliberately not going to go there) but rarely does the prejudice against ex-offenders come up in discussions about detrimental treatment in the workplace. I have never been asked by an employer to draft a policy on the employment of ex-offenders, for example, and only occasionally am I asked to comment on recruitment scenarios where the employer is thinking about someone’s past..

Little coverage is given to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which has actually been amended in the last 12 months. The changes are due to come into force imminently (no date has yet been given) and reduce the period of time before certain offences become ‘spent’. For a full breakdown see Recruiting managers and HR personnel will need to be aware of these changes.

My challenge to any employer is whether having a blanket question on their job application form about offending history is necessary or whether a more tailored approach is required. For example, if what you would really be worried about is someone working in the finance department with a history of deception then shouldn’t the questions be tailored to this?

What are your experiences in this arena?