What is Ban the Box?
Very simply, the Ban the Box campaign wants employers to remove the tick box from job application forms that asks candidates to disclose their criminal convictions. Championed in the UK by Business in the Community, the Ban the Box campaign aims to create fair opportunities for everyone by having employers ask about criminal convictions, if needed, after the initial interview stages.
Why consider working with ex-offenders and Banning the Box?
For people leaving prison, finding employment can be a significant barrier between them and a successful reintegration with society. A job gives people purpose, stability, money and increased self-confidence. Without stable employment, it is very easy to slip back into the cycle of crime and end up back in prison.
Reoffending can cost the UK between £9.5 - £13 billion each year. Yet with meaningful employment, this figure could be lessened as more and more ex-offenders become positive contributors to society. Ex-offenders are an untapped resource. Many of them have learnt a range of skills prior to entering custody, or gained new skills through offender education initiatives and the majority could gain new skills if they were given the right support to do so. Ignoring this section of the community or excluding them from employment is not just a waste, it is also detrimental to their rehabilitation.
The tick box on job applications that asks people to disclose their prior convictions is seen as another barrier placed between that ex-offender and employment. Approximately three quarters of employers admit to using prior criminal convictions to discriminate against a job seeker, yet the employers who chose to overlook this have unique access to a huge group of people with a variety of skills. Employers aren’t legally required to ask for this information and by only providing a tick box, it does not give that individual a chance to explain or contextualise their prior mistakes. They could be the best person for the job, but if they aren’t given that second chance it’s a no-win situation for both parties. Employers that chose to overlook the tick box usually say that ex-offenders make the most hardworking, dedicated and loyal employees because they have been given a second chance.
Over 60% of short term prisoners will reoffend within one year of being released from prison, but purposeful employment can reduce this statistic by almost half. Preventing reoffending is in everyone’s best interests; it makes society safer, it reduces the pressures on our justice system and it makes a positive difference to people’s lives. Giving someone a second chance to prove themselves and do better through employment is a way to break the cycle of crime and stop reoffending.
Who has already signed up to Ban the Box?
A number of different employers are supporting and working with ex-offenders to achieve a successful resettlement across various sectors. As of January 2017, 76 employers had banned the box covering over 700,000 roles. These employers include:
How can you get involved?
Ultimately it is the decision of the employer, but if you are an employer and want to support and work with ex-offenders by signing up to follow the Ban the Box policies, you can find out more information at www.bitc.org.uk/banthebox.
If you aren’t an employer, you can still help make a difference by teaching within Offender Education. Helping someone gain training and qualifications can give them the support they need to take their first steps towards finding stable, sustained employment upon release. You can explore the latest vacancies in Offender Education here.