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. IASIO is a community based organisation funded primarily by the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service and employs 24 Training and Employment Officers (TEOs) nationwide in its Employment Services. By the end of 2019, over 26,000 people engaged with these services, leading to over 12,000 placements in training, education and employment (5,068 directly into employment and 7,249 placements into training or education leading to employment). In our experience, some of the most frequently asked questions by employers are:
- 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.
- Employees who have a criminal record are often extremely appreciative of being given a second chance, and are usually very 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 a 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
- it helps the company understand and meet the diverse needs of the population
- Corporate Social Responsibility: Is a concept where businesses take responsibility for their impact on society by integrating social and environmental concerns into their mainstream operations on a voluntary basis. CSR fosters a more inclusive society where everyone thrives. An interesting quote from a study on the BITCI website states “There has been a massive shift in the past year among Irish people about the role of business, with the vast majority of the public now expecting companies to do good as well as being profitable.” (https://www.bitc.ie/join-the-network/csr-sustainability-business-case/)
- 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 on the person’s file, thus making it difficult for that person to obtain a job in a situation where employers have a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a conviction.
- Not to steal from my company?
- Not to upset / steal from my customers?
- Not to upset / steal from his/her colleagues?
- To be timely and regular in attending for work?
- To take instruction and supervision?
The employer will know more about the person’s background than perhaps 90% of his or her entire workforce. Of course, there is no guarantee, but the chances of a person with a previous conviction who has been given a chance breaking the employer’s trust is minimal.
The candidate should go through the same vetting process as any other candidate, including the checking of references, and therefore his/her track record on punctuality and attendance, as well as ability to take instruction and supervision can be verified.
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 offending circumstances against the risk criteria connected to the job. Assessment should include consideration of:
- The Employer’s duties in law, particularly with regard to working with vulnerable clients
- The nature of the work sought
- 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 avoid re-offending.
- 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)
- The nature of the job – does it present any realistic opportunities for the applicant to repeat the offence?
- Factors which might decrease the perceived risk, including those already in existence, such as the level of supervision provided.
- GDPR suggests it is best practice to ask applicants about unspent criminal convictions directly prior to the job offer stage rather than on Application Forms or during interview. It is also imperative that every candidate is asked the same question. (See GDPR Guidelines for Employers here)
- To encourage applicants to disclose unspent convictions, an environment of trust should be created in which they understand how and why such information will be used. This is also a requirement under GDPR. (See Guidelines mentioned above)
- Employers should ensure that all candidates are included in statements of equal opportunity and that any questions relating to unspent convictions state that a criminal record will be viewed in the context of the overall application and job being offered.
- It is also important to remember that, depending on the offence, unless the question is raised as part of the recruitment process, there is no obligation on the candidate to divulge a conviction.
- Access to sensitive data such as criminal record information must be 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 criminal record.
There is some debate about whether fellow staff members should be informed at the outset that a new employee has a criminal record 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 person to perform and closer scrutiny of their work.
- It could also isolate the person 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: the person with the conviction may even resign if he or she feels that the relationship with staff members has broken down. Therefore, management GDPR policy should be examined to guide the decision on which approach would be most suitable in the given circumstances of the case.
- As stated in question 4 above, Under GDPR, 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, full disclosure might be deemed to the more suitable policy. If this is the decision, then the applicant should be fully informed of this when making a job offer.
Companies should be wary of having standard company-wide bans on the recruitment of people with previous criminal convictions as it might exclude candidates 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 people with convictions as part of your equal opportunities policy, it is important that the recruitment process is fair.
Employers should ensure that:
- All recruitment staff are trained in fair selection methods and GDPR requirements
- A Privacy statement is given to all applicants who are asked about criminal convictions.
- All applications are dealt with on their merits as standard best practice
- The recruitment process is the same for all candidates, whether it is a job application or CV process.
- The completed application 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 an 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.
To encourage the successful transition of a person with a criminal record 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. 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, and a little patience may be beneficial for everyone.
- Many former 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.
- 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.
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 former offenders do not disclose their conviction unless asked directly during interview or at job offer stage.
The discovery after-the-fact that an employee is a former 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 the same manner as any other employee.
IASIO (IRISH ASSOCIATION FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION OPPORTUNITIES)
IASIO – the Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities—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
- 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 Training & Employment Officer of his/her experience of working with the individual prior to any job offer, on request.
- 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.
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 progressive 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 s/he is ready and that the employment is appropriate.
A highly skilled and dedicated team of 25 Training and Employment Officers around the country and in our prisons provides support to both the employer and the employee before, during and after the placement.
For more information about IASIO’s Employment Services, please contact Emma Byrne at firstname.lastname@example.org / phone 01-8662706