How Employing Ex-Offenders And The Homeless May Work For You

Over recent years there has been a drive by well-known companies to adopt socially responsible recruitment schemes to hire individuals from marginalised groups, such as ex-offenders, homeless people, army veterans and the long-term unemployed. Two particular examples of this are Timpson, the key-cutting and shoe repair company, and the well-known coffee shop, Pret a Manger.

Timpson were one of the first pioneers of such action. It runs one of the most established programmes for helping ex-offenders return to the workplace by offering training workshops in prisons and employing individuals on day-release schemes prior to their sentences being complete. The scheme has proved incredibly successful, with over 400 ex-offenders still working at all levels of the business, including at management level, since its inception over 13 years ago.

Similarly, Pret’s Apprenticeship Scheme has offered over 330 places to individuals since it started in 2008. The scheme also provides access to accommodation, mentoring, counselling, a clothing allowance and training so individuals can obtain jobs within the Pret business. Over two-thirds of those offered a place have since graduated from the scheme and are full-time members of the business. Pret is also currently working in conjunction with the prison service to roll out this scheme on a wider basis.

These companies however are by no means the only companies providing such opportunities. Other companies focusing on this issue include household names such as Marks and Spencer, the Virgin group and Veolia, the rubbish collection and road sweeping company, who have set themselves a target to employ 10% of new recruits from marginalised groups.

Why are some companies focussing on this issue? According to the Lincolnshire Action Trust, a charity which acts in partnership with various agencies to improve the skills and employability of offenders and prisoners, there is evidence to suggest that ex-offenders are less likely to move between employers. These individuals tend to appreciate the steps companies have taken in giving them a fresh start and remain loyal employees with good attendance and performance records. This therefore makes the investment worthwhile and is a win-win situation for the company given the high costs of recruitment and training. Further, and on a wider scale, some businesses report an increase in overall staff morale as employees feel good about the fact that they work for a company that is actively helping people.

Regardless of the commercial and pragmatic benefits of this type of recruitment, such companies should be applauded for the ethical basis for such action. Statistics clearly show that ex-offenders who find employment following release from prison are significantly less likely to commit further crimes as they are in surroundings that support their rehabilitation. Indeed, Working Chance, a recruitment consultancy that assists ex-offenders in securing jobs, reports that on average 65% of women re-offend within two years of leaving prison. Compare that with females who find work through Working Chance and that figure falls to just 1%.

It should therefore be welcomed that such well-known companies are leading by example by offering these individuals a new start with a clean slate. Hopefully more businesses will follow this model and the trend for socially responsible recruitment continues to grow.

Samantha Prosser is a solicitor at leading senior executive employment law firm BDBF.