Last reviewed 26 October 2021

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has urged businesses to consider filling some of their skills gaps with prisoners and ex-offenders, arguing that this could also help to bring down crime.

He highlighted that, if an offender has a job within six months of release, they are up to nine percentage points less likely to reoffend.

Mr Raab quoted the example of Timpson retailers who for almost 20 years have been giving jobs to ex-offenders and have frequently said how motivated those people are by getting a second chance.

“You can also look at Halfords, who find that people recruited from their prison programmes are more likely to stay on with the company for the long-haul,” the Justice Secretary said. “That makes their training costs more efficient because they’re retaining knowledge and skills that are absolutely crucial for any organisation’s success.”

Unfortunately, he went on, despite these and other good examples, the reality is that just 14% of offenders in UK prisons will get jobs within six months of being released.

Having spoken to employers, Mr Raab said, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) was planning changes in how it trains offenders in order to give them opportunities to work on temporary release while they are in prison.

According to the New Futures Network, which brokers relationships between prisons and employers, in the first quarter of this year, of all the job vacancies offered to prisoners via prisons, just one in five were accepted by offenders.

The MOJ plans to improve that number by making prison governors “lead the charge” on the rate of uptake of jobs in their prisons.

“That doesn’t mean we want to turn prison governors into some kind of recruitment consultants or head-hunters”, Mr Raab said. “But it does mean that they’ve got an essential role in facilitating the relationship – by advertising jobs properly, so that every offender knows what is available, and making sure that inmates are equipped with what they need.”

James Timpson, the pioneer of employing ex-offenders, is now working with the MOJ to help prisons understand what businesses need and to set up boards of local employers to come together to link prisons with the business networks in their particular area.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

It’s no secret that businesses across the UK are suffering with staff shortages at the moment. As such, moving past prejudiced opinions that ex-prisoners are not capable of fulfilling vacant roles can help businesses to support local communities whilst meeting their individual needs and demands.

Similarly, employers should remember that they will be acting unlawfully if they refuse to employ someone, or dismiss them, because of a spent conviction.

Job candidates are under no legal obligation to disclose previous convictions and employers shouldn’t ask about them.