Should you ask job seekers about their criminal history?
Searching for a new job is a challenge; hiring the right talent for the job – also a challenge. There’s a multitude of factors to consider with every candidate, and one that sometimes rears its head is criminal history. The question is though: do you need to know?
Whether you check this through a system or ask them directly can be seen as controversial but necessary, especially depending on the industry you’re in as there are differing levels of risk.
Asking applicants about whether or not they have a criminal history can feel awkward, but if you avoid the question it can lead to problems down the line. You don’t want to run a CRB check and potentially have to tell them they are no longer an appropriate person for the job. It’s a colossal waste of time. Not just for your business, but for the applicant too.
Ban the Box
Interestingly, several businesses are hesitant to ask about criminal history and would prefer to forgo requesting criminal history information. The Campaign ‘Ban the Box’ is gaining notoriety in the UK after success in the US. The campaign calls on employers to ditch the ‘do you have a criminal history’ box on applications to prioritise skills instead of ticking ‘yes’ without context.
With over 10 million people with a criminal history in the UK alone, it can be difficult to re-enter the workplace. Evidence suggests that 75% of employers discriminate against an applicant with a conviction and without context to the type of crime. Some argue that this is unfair, especially as there is no legal requirement for most employers to request an individual’s criminal past.
The real world
The Civil Service and health and beauty brand Boots have dropped the tick box question and instead focus on the applicant’s talent. For those 10 million people with a criminal history, finding a job can be tough pre-application, with over half of them reporting that they would not apply for a job where this information is requested.
There is no right or wrong answer to this issue. Each business has specific values and hiring process. The Ban the Box campaign is no doubt a controversial one, with many great points as to why the UK should ditch the box. However, if you’re in doubt as to whether you want your business to implement this approach in the application process, we recommend discussing it with your HR team.