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Ban the Box: What is it, and how can employers help

When your business is looking for new hires, what kind of questions do you ask? Previous experience, work history and training might all be necessary, but Ban the Box says skip the question about previous convictions.

What is Ban the Box?

Ban the Box is an initiative started in the US, and was launched in the UK in 2013. The aim of Ban the Box is to ask employers to get rid of the tick box on application forms, because so often those with previous convictions are unable to get past the initial stage of the recruitment process.

This campaign has been promoted by Unlock, a national independence advocacy charity.  They’re seeking to eradicate barriers like the convictions box, which routinely stop people with criminal records being able to find work. According to Unlock, ‘the best way we can help people is by changing the system that creates prejudice, stigma and discrimination for people with criminal records.’

For people with criminal records, applying for work is a process which is fraught with anxiety and stress. Disclosing a criminal record to a potential employer, as well as applying for an enhanced DBS check or security clearances can be incredibly difficult, particularly when convictions are from years prior. 

Often, employers can disregard those with criminal convictions automatically, with no regard for the individual’s circumstances, and how they have changed since the conviction. These barriers to accessing stable employment can have a huge effect on individuals’ mental health, as well as their financial situation. 

Ban the Box is just one way that Unlock are hoping to get those with criminal convictions past the initial application stage, and into an interview with an employer, who can then see the applicant as a whole person, rather than just a tick box on a page.

How can employers help?

If you want to help those with convictions find work, one of the easiest ways to do this is remove the tick box asking applicants whether they have any criminal convictions from your application forms. 

This allows all applicants a fair chance, and to compete for opportunities that they have the experience and the training for. Businesses like Virgin Trains have banned the box, specifying that candidates will not be automatically excluded from their job opportunities. 

Employers can also help by making it clear when they expect an applicant to disclose convictions, rather than expecting candidates to disclose voluntarily. Communicating to candidates specifically the level of checks that are being done is also a way to improve your recruitment process for those with convictions. The wording that employers use is also important, and allows employers to collect the information they need, and comply with the law.  

Want to know more?

Unlock have specific training for employers who would like to better understand the law, as well as help to support people with convictions into employment, volunteering and education. If you’d like to find out more, you can see their upcoming online events and workshops here.

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