Employers info

Hiring Someone with a Criminal Conviction – Frequently Asked Questions
for Employers

This document has been prepared by IASIO for employers who are considering hiring someone with a criminal record, to address any questions or concerns they may have.
IASIO manages three criminal justice programmes, two of which are dedicated Employment Services that work with former offenders, both prisoners and probationers, supporting reintegration efforts, exploring future directions, and ultimately assisting with access to appropriate training, education and employment opportunities aligned to labour market trends.

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IASIO is a community based organisation funded solely by the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service and employs 22 Training and Employment Officers (TEOs) nationwide in it’s Employment services. Between 200 and 2016, over 20,961 people have engaged with these services leading to over 15,045 placements in training, education and employment (6,089 directly into employment and 8,956 placements in training or education leading to employment). In our experience, some of the most frequently asked questions by employers are:

1. Why should I employ a person who has broken the law?

  • There are a large number of highly skilled and motivated former offenders looking for employment. By focusing on previous criminal conduct, society deprives itself of the opportunity to enlist the talents, skills and energies of these individuals in whose development it has a vested interest. at the very least it is wasteful and inefficient for employers to discount such a significant pool of potential employees.
  • High quality skills training is now provided in all Irish prisons, informed by the labour market demands.
  • Employees who have a criminal record are often extremely appreciative of being given a second chance, and are usually committed, hard working, and loyal workers.
  • Some companies have found that the employment of ex-offenders has had a positive effect on their business leading to highly motivated and dedicated workforce (IBEC).
  • Diversity management: The benefits of a diverse workforce can be summarised as follows:
    • better staff morale
    • improved team effectiveness
    • recruitment and retention of skilled and dedicated staff and
    • a better understanding of the diverse needs of the population
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Being open to hiring suitably qualified candidates who have a criminal record provides an extremely valuable service to local communities.
  • Fairness: given that there is currently little provision in Irish law on the expungement of sentences (see Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions & Certain Disclosures) Act 2016), most offences, regardless of the nature, severity or circumstances of the offence, remain in the offender’s file for life, thus making it difficult for that person to obtain a job, particularly in situations where employers impose a blanket ban on recruiting people with a past conviction.

2. Can I trust the candidate:

The employer will know more about the ex-offender’s background (and the ex-offender also knows the employer is aware) than perhaps 99% of his or her entire workforce. Of course, there is no guarantee, but in our experience the chances of an ex-offender who has been given a second chance breaking the employer’s trust is minimal.

The candidate should go through the same vetting process as any other candidate, including the checking references, and therefore his/her track record on reliability, punctuality and attendance, as well as ability to take instruction and the job can be verified.

3. How do I balance wanting to be fair and open-minded with any potential risk to my employees and customers?

A bias-free common sense approach is necessary when considering hiring a person with a criminal conviction. Risk assessment involves comparing the applicant’s skills, experience and circumstances against the risk criteria connected to the job. Assessment should include consideration of:

  • The nature of the work sought i.e. does it present any realistic risks to/by the candidate?
  • The nature of the offence – would the offence create unacceptable risks for other employees, clients etc?
  • When it occurred – the time that has passed since the offence and/or completion of sentence.
  • The circumstances involved – have the circumstances changed since?
  • The efforts the candidate has made to to move away from criminal label.
  • Objective assessment of possible reactions of other employees, customers etc.
  • Safeguards against personal prejudices that might cloud judgment and good practice (see question 6 below)
  • Factors which might decrease the perceived risk, including those already in existence, such as the level of supervision provided.
  • The Employer’s duties in law, particularly if job involves working with children or vulnerable adults (which applies to certain offences only).

4. What information should I have about the ex-offender? How do I manage this sensitive information?

  • To encourage applicants to disclose convictions, an environment of trust must be created in which they understand how and why such information will be used.
  • Employers should ensure that ex-offenders are included in all statements of equal opportunity and that questions relating to convictions state that a criminal record will be viewed in the context of the overall application.
  • It is best practice to ask applicants about criminal convictions on a character inquiry form that is separate from the main application form. Ensure there is adequate space for the applicant to give details of the offences.
  • It is important to remember that, depending on the offence, unless this question is raised as part of the application process or at interview, there is no obligation on the candidate to divulge a conviction.
  • Employers can ask for details about any conviction, such as whether it was work-related on an Inquiry Form. These details should be sealed in an envelope marked private and confidential and attached to the main form.
  • This should be opened only if an applicant is shortlisted. Otherwise, it should be returned unopened. If the person is hired, this confidential information should be stored separately from Personnel files.
  • Access to criminal record information is on a need-to-know basis.
  • Agree internal policy on access to disclosed information with senior management staff. Inform employee/applicant of this policy, including who in the company will know about the offence.

5. Should I disclose this information to others in the spirit of open communications and trust with all staff?

There is some debate about whether fellow staff members should be informed at the outset that a new employee is an ex-offender or not. The answer to this question is not so easily reached for the following reasons:

  • It does support business transparency, but it could also lead to problems in the workplace, such as more pressure being put on the ex-offender to perform and closer scrutiny of their work.
  • It could also isolate the ex-offender and cause a strained work environment and working relationships.
  • On the other hand, if colleagues are not told at the start and it is found out by accident, there could be worse consequences: ex-offenders may even resign as they feel that the relationship with staff members has broken down. Therefore, management and staff communications policies should be examined to guide the decision on which approach would be most suitable.
  • As stated in question 4 above, it is considered best practice to treat criminal record information on a strict need-to-know basis. However, it is conceivable that in some companies, particularly small companies with close-knit teams, transparency would be the more suitable policy. If this is the decision, then the applicant should be fully informed of this at interview stage or when making a job offer.

6. What recruitment methods should be used?

Companies should be wary of having standard company-wide bans on the recruitment of ex-offenders as it might exclude people who are highly skilled and motivated and who may  have an acceptable level of risk attached to their employment. If you are considering taking applications from ex-offenders as part of your equal opportunities policy, it is important that the recruitment process is fair. Employers should ensure that:

  • Recruitment staff are trained in fair selection methods.
  • A statement of non-discrimination or equal opportunity is given to all applicants who are asked about criminal convictions.
  • It is standard practice that all applications are dealt with on their merits.
  • The recruitment process is the same for all candidates, whether it is by Application Form or CV.
  • The completed Application Form or CV becomes part of the personnel file of those applicants accepted for employment.

And also consider that:

  • The employer may investigate any portion of the requested information and may deny or later terminate the employment of anyone giving false or incomplete information.
  • If the offence is directly connected to the work sought, the application can reasonably be denied.
  • If the offence is not directly connected to the work sought, it is reasonable to consider hiring the person on merit.

7. If I do decide to hire someone with a criminal record, is there anything I should do to ease the new employee’s transition into the work environment?

To encourage the successful transition of an ex-offender into employment:
  • Consideration needs to be given to developing senior management support. Their support is crucial: if an initiative is supported from the top, it will also be supported at the bottom. If necessary, a strong business case can help to engage their support (see question 1).
  • The employee can and should be treated like any other, and certainly won’t want to be singled out for any special attention. However, it is important to be sensitive to the history of the employee, for example if he/she hasn’t worked in a while. A little patience may be beneficial for everyone.
  • Many ex-offenders suffer from low self-esteem, and feel everyone is thinking the worst about them. It’s important to treat the new employee just like everyone else, to create a friendly and positive environment, and to provide clear instruction and expectations from the start of the employment.
  • It might be a good idea to assign a ‘buddy’ to the newly-hired candidate for the first few days to help them learn the ropes and to ensure that they are not overwhelmed or isolated.

8. What should I do if I find out someone who is already working for me has a criminal record?

For the job-seeking individual, the disclosure of a criminal record can often adversely affect results. Receiving negative responses when explaining the gap in employment history and constant rejection can cause low self-esteem, low morale, depression and, in some cases, recidivism. As a result, many ex-offenders do not disclose their conviction, unless asked directly during interview or in an application form.
The discovery after-the-fact that an employee is an ex-offender can cause anxiety, nervousness and concern amongst employers. This can lead to rash decision making upon discovery, no matter what the offence, or how it relates to the job. However, it is important to keep a sense of perspective. If employees are performing their duties as required and to the necessary standard, there are no grounds for dismissing them purely on the basis of a prior criminal conviction. If there are problems with the employee’s performance, attendance, or conduct these should be dealt with through the disciplinary procedure, in a similar manner to any other employee.

IASIO (Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders):

1. What is IASIO? What does IASIO offer me?

IASIO – the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders is a national organisation formed in January 2012 with a specific focus on alternatives to both offending and re-imprisonment.  This is achieved through the provision of direct services to offenders both in the community and in all Irish prisons.  The twin pillars of IASIO services are: supported stability leading to change, and opportunity to do so.

IASIO manage 3 criminal justice services that offer a comprehensive Guidance, Resettlement and Placement Service to people with criminal convictions which include professional psychometric assessments to ensure meaningful & appropriate guidance and placement for those referred.  The ethos of IASIO is founded on the premise that people do desist from criminal activity, that equal opportunity applies to all, and in the knowledge that access to education, training and employment opportunities are central to bringing about positive change not just for the person but for local communities too.

Creating and maintaining the vital link between employers and former offenders is critical for their transition back into society. Having a stable working environment that provides motivation, personal satisfaction and financial rewards has a major and pivotal role to play in the rehabilitation of former offenders. IASIO’s Linkage and GATE Services assigns a Training and Employment Officer to work with each candidate referred by the Probation Service (Linkage) and the Irish Prison Service (GATE), who will carry out an assessment and then work closely with the candidate to explore future direction and prepare for training and/or employment placements.

For the employer, working with IASIO means:

    • Recruitment needs are met at no cost to the employer
    • Information on available employment supports such as substantial PRSI Exemptions (see JobPlus on www.welfare.ie or www.revenue.ie)
    • Full support for both the employer and the employee from the network of highly-qualified and experienced Training and Employment Officers around the country and within the prisons.
    • A reference from the TEO of his/her experience of working with the individual prior to any job offer, on request.
    • A more meaningful Equal Opportunities Policy.
    • PR and media opportunities if desired, and networking opportunities with other companies hiring Linkage or GATE candidates.
    • If interested, a tour of your nearest prison can be provided, with the Governor’s permission, by the local TEO, including the training workshops, in order to gauge the level of expertise and accredited courses provided in Irish prisons. Note however that not all IASIO clients serve a prison sentence, many are placed on Probation or Community Service Order.

2. What is exceptional about IASIO clients?

You can expect that an IASIO candidate will have been working for some time with a Training and Employment Officer in preparation for a return to work, including the following types of intervention and development:

    • A holistic guidance process which allows candidates to identify their true aspirations
    • Soft skills such as meeting commitments (appointments and action items), punctuality, communications skills, how to handle difficult questions about one’s past when asked by colleagues, taking instruction, and many others
    • Creation of a career and training plan, taking responsibility for and being pro-active in self-development
    • Psychometric testing of applicants

Through several months of work with the TEO, the candidate has the opportunity to demonstrate that he/she is motivated, job ready, and eager to begin a new life. TEOs will not recommend a candidate for employment if they are not confident that he is ready and that the employment is appropriate.

3. If problems arise what support, if any, will I get?

A highly skilled and dedicated team of 23 Training and Employment Officers around the country and in our prisons provides support to both the employer and the employee before and during the placement.

Information on Garda Vetting Procedures

pdfGarda Vetting Procedures

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pdfAdministrative Filter in Respect of Garda Vetting Unit Disclosures

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JobsPlus Incentive Scheme

The following information on the JobsPlus can also be found www.jobsPlus

What is JobsPlus?

JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who employ jobseekers on the Live Register. This incentive replaces the Revenue Job Assist and Employer Job (PRSI) Exemption Scheme from 1 July 2013. It is designed to encourage employers and businesses to employ people who have been out of work for long periods. Eligible employers who recruit full-time employees on or after 1 July 2013 may apply for the incentive.

The Department of Social Protection pays the incentive to the employer monthly in arrears over a 2-year period. It provides 2 levels of regular cash payments:

  • A payment of €7,500 for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months – see ‘JobsPlus for young people’ below
  • A payment of €10,000 for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 24 months

JobsPlus Youth

Since 1 January 2015, under the JobsPlus Youth part of the scheme, the qualifying period for JobsPlus for jobseekers aged under 25 has been reduced to 4 months. It remains at 12 months for other jobseekers. Eligible young people will be given certification that they qualify for the JobsPlus subsidy and they can use this when applying for jobs.
The European Commission is providing co-funding to JobsPlus for participants under 25 years. JobsPlus is jointly backed by the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the European Social Fund (ESF) and Department of Social Protection on an equal funding basis. For the period 2015 – 2017 the allocation from each of the ESF and YEI is €2.7m approx.

Rule for Employers

JobsPlus is available to all employers in the private (including commercial semi-state), community, not-for-profit and voluntary sectors. It is not open to public service employers. Employers can avail of Jobsplus when filling positions that arise as a consequence of natural turnover.
Employers must meet the following conditions:
• The business must be registered as a PAYE employer with Revenue
• The employer must be compliant with Irish tax and employment laws. Employers will be asked to give an officer of the Department of Social Protection permission to check your status with Revenue and to obtain a Tax Clearance Certificate using Revenue’s on line service.
• The employer must offer full-time employment of over 30 hours per week, spanning at least 4 days per week. The eligible employee must be on payroll and subject to PAYE and PRSI.
• Employers must give details of workforce prior to application, where an increase in the work force is not evident employers will be asked to provide additional information to the Department to support the application.
You can find more information for employers in this list of frequently asked questions for JobsPlus employers.

Rule for Employees

Eligible employees must:
• Be getting Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance Transition or signing on for credits.
And
• Be at least 12 months* (312 days) on the Live Register in the previous 18 months to qualify as an eligible employee for the €7,500 incentive. Since 1 January 2015, the qualifying period is 4 months (104 days) for young people aged under 25.
Or
• Be at least 24 months* (624 days) on the Live Register in the previous 30 months to qualify as an eligible employee for the higher incentive of €10,000
*Periods spent on certain activation schemes, or time spent in prison may count this time towards the qualifying period once entitlement to one of the qualifying payments outlined above is re-established prior to commencing employment. Jobseekers’ payments paid in conjunction with periods of casual employment may count towards satisfying the qualifying period, as will breaks in jobseekers payments as a result of periods of illness during which Illness Benefit is paid.
People taking part in internships under JobBridge and the Work Placement Programme (WPP) who were getting a qualifying payment prior to their internship may be employed directly from these schemes once the required qualifying period and conditions are satisfied.

Other Supports

Family Income Supplement: New employees under the JobsPlus scheme may be entitled to get Family Income Supplement.
Medical card: People who have been unemployed for at least 12 months may keep their medical card for 3 years when they take up new employment.
Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement: Rent and Mortgage Interest Supplement are not payable where a jobseeker or spouse are in full-time employment (30 hours or more a week). People who are already getting Rent Supplement may be able to keep it, subject to a means test, while they are working full time, as long as they are eligible for housing support under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). People already getting Mortgage Interest Supplement may be able to keep it while working full time as long as the gross household income does not exceed €317.43 a week.
You can read more information for jobseekers in this list of frequently asked questions for Jobsplus employees.

Rates

If approved, the employer will receive the following payments over a 2-year period for each eligible person they recruit and retain in employment:

Eligible person Amount
Has been unemployed for between 12 and 24 months (4 months if aged under 25) €7,500
Has been unemployed for 24 months or more €10,000

Payment will be made monthly in arrears by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) over a 24-month period. It will not be taxable for income or corporation tax purposes.

Review

If the application is refused the employer can request a review of the decision by a higher officer in the Department of Social Protection.

How to Apply

EmployersIf an employer decides to recruit an additional employee, they can log on to jobsplus.ie and complete an online application form giving, for example, the name of company, size of workforce, bank details and economic sector of company. Once this is submitted an officer of the Department of Social Protection (DSP) will review and check the tax clearance certificate is in order and email the employer if it is approved.
Once eligibility is confirmed by the DSP an employer may start to recruit, either by contacting their local Intreo centre or employment services office for details of suitably experienced and qualified candidates for their vacancy. They could also register the vacancy with Jobs Ireland.
Candidate employeesOnce preliminary interviews have been conducted and candidates have been shortlisted employers should then ask these candidates to log on to jobsplus.ie to check their eligibility for JobsPlus. The DSP will process their request and verify eligibility by posting a two-part JP1 form to the candidate. Part A of the JP1 form will confirm the employee’s eligibility and rate of payment for a prospective employer, Part B is to be completed by the employer if they choose to employ the candidate. The candidate should bring the two-part JP1 form confirming eligibility to the employer for consideration.
When an employer identifies the most suitable candidate for the position, they should complete part B of the JP1 form for that candidate, sign the declaration and return to the DSP. The JP1 form will be processed by the Department and once all conditions are satisfied employers will be notified by e-mail that they have been awarded the incentive with regard to the employee specified on the JP1 form.
Once the candidate is offered a position they should contact the DSP to close their jobseeker’s claim. This can be done on line at welfare.ie or by contacting their local Intreo Centre or social welfare office. Payment of JobsPlus can only start once the DSP confirms that the new employee’s jobseeker claim has closed.

Where to Apply

You should apply to register your company at www.jobsplus.ie.
Employers should apply to register their company at www.jobsplus.ie.You can get further information about JobsPlus by logging on to www.jobsplus.ie, emailing Jobsplusinfo@welfare.ie or calling (071) 9672535/9672583. Information is also available from your local social welfare office or Intreo centre.
Jobs Plus is administered by:Department of Social Protection
Employment Support Services
Social Welfare Services Office
Government Buildings
Shannon Lodge
Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim, Ireland
Tel:(071) 967 2616
Locall:1890 92 79 99
Homepage: www.welfare.ie

For more information about the IASIO’s criminal justice seervices, please contact:
Programmes Managers Barry Owens bowens@iasio.ie or Adrienne Higgins ahiggins@iasio.ie