National employers ‘still asking candidates about convictions at application stage’

More than two-thirds of large, national employers continue to ask applicants about criminal records on their application forms, new research has indicated.

In a study conducted by Unlock, a charity for people with convictions, 70% of 77 employers surveyed with online applications forms asked questions about previous offending, with only 20% providing guidance to applicants as to when a conviction becomes spent.

Unlock reported that 22% of employers  – who came from eight different industry sectors – phrased the question about criminal records in a way that was either potentially unlawful or misleading. The charity believes the practice of collecting criminal records data at the application stage is unlikely to be compliant with data protection legislation.

None of the employers surveyed provided information to applicants on why they collect criminal records data, or for how long it will be retained. Under GDPR, employers who fail to provide this information are likely to be in breach of the law, Unlock suugested.

Commenting on the report, ‘A question of fairness’, Unlock’s co-director of Christopher Stacey said it is “positive” that 110 employers – including Barclays, Boots, the Civil Service, and Virgin Trains – have signed up to the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign, meaning they no longer request information on criminal records as the application stage.

However, he expressed disappointment – albeit not surprise – that requesting this information “remains the default approach” for seven out of ten national companies.

“These findings are unsurprising – employers are asking about criminal records at application stage as a way of deselecting applicants,” Mr Stacey claimed.

“We know this approach has a chilling effect on talented applicants with a criminal record, many of whom never apply because they think they don’t stand a chance.”

He said that evidence from employers who do recruit people with criminal records shows that they make “reliable, hardworking and loyal employees”.

“Employers who are open about their inclusive recruitment practices report a positive impact on their reputation,” Mr Stacey continued.

Further information

To read the full report – ‘A Question of Fairness’ – click here

To find out more about Unlock, click here