Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Prejudged: Tagged for life?

LEADING specialist welfare to work provider Working Links has today launched its research report, looking at employer attitudes towards ex-offenders

Leading specialist welfare to work provider Working Links has today launched its research report, looking at employer attitudes towards ex-offenders.

Working Links is making policy recommendations after publishing its ‘Prejudged: Tagged for Life’ report, introduced at the party political fringe events and highlighting employer attitudes across the UK. As a result, Working Links is calling for policy reviews and a consultation looking at a new Discrimination Act.

Working Links commissioned in depth independent research* into employer attitudes towards ex-offenders, revealing that criminal convictions are often used by employers to reject people from the recruitment process. Findings include:

  • 55% of employers would use a disclosed conviction to reject an applicant outright or would discriminate against them compared to an equally qualified candidate with no conviction

  • Only 20% of employers have knowingly recruited an ex-offender

  • Employers wrongly believe ex-offenders will lack honesty and reliability, whereas in reality over 60% of employers of ex-offenders found that they worked as hard, if not harder than those with no convictions

  • 47% of employers had no policies in place regarding ex-offenders but 67% would welcome guidance into this area

In response to the findings Working Links have made the following policy recommendations to the government and offender services:

To government:

1. Implementation of the recommendations of the 2000 Review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA). All accepted by the former government but never implemented.

2. A consultation on a new Offender Discrimination Act to evaluate the potential to further limit the ability of employers to discriminate against people with convictions, including the reconsideration of the requirement to disclose minor offences and the length of time until many offences are considered spent.

3. Review of possible financial incentives to encourage employers to hire ex-offenders, potentially using the invest-to-save funding model.

To offender services

1. Greater support for offenders on release from prison in areas such as motivation, preparing for work and building relevant skills.

2. Expert advice and support for employers both before and during employment and assistance in the development of effective and inclusive policies for the employment of ex-offenders.

3. The government and offender services to work more closely together to build greater awareness of the support available to employers.

Working Links work with thousands of offenders, delivering employment and skills schemes through their various government schemes. As a result of the acute barriers ex-offenders face in securing employment, Working Links has built up dedicated offender programmes and services that are currently in place within 55 UK prisons and probation areas.

Comments Debbie Ryan, Director of Market Development at Working Links:

“Over 17% of 18-52 year olds in the UK have a criminal record and 74% of ex-offenders are jobless on leaving prison. Not only is employment vital to help people reintegrate into society, but this equates to huge costs to the welfare and benefits system and vastly increases re-offending rates, again at an enormous cost to society.

“Our ‘Prejudged: Tagged for Life’ report outlines the overwhelming barriers that ex-offenders face to find work and clearly demonstrates the changes we have to make to ensure that once an offender has served their sentence, they don’t go on to face a lifetime of discrimination. We are now calling for changes to legislation to ensure that the journey to employment is fair to all those who seek it, as well as expert support for employers to build their own confidence in employing ex-offenders.”

The full report can be viewed at