2 75% of employers indicate that they would consider employing ex-offenders if they had the relevant skills that fit the needs of the organisation. CIPD (2007) Employing ex-offenders to capture talent, London: CIPD
3 FOREWORD NIACRO, the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, is a voluntary organisation, working for over 35 years to reduce crime and its impact on people and communities. Our vision is to be acknowledged as making a unique contribution to the development of a society in which the rights and needs of everyone including offenders are equally respected. We work in partnership with all the main criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland and we have significant experience in the delivery of employment programmes for offenders. Our current programme, Jobtrack is a partnership with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Prison Service. It is European (ESF) funded and based on research that demonstrates employment is a significant factor in reducing offending. The target group (prisoners and offenders in the community) encompasses many who are on the margins of society and experiencing multiple barriers that exclude them from the labour market. We know they need direct intervention and support, which can only succeed with proactive engagement with employers. This is what Jobtrack seeks to achieve. We provide support measures including training on legislation; a guide for employers entitled Working with Conviction and a confidential advice service for all employers willing to consider individuals with convictions as part of their workforce. However, we also know engaging employers can be a difficult and challenging task. This good practice guide has been produced to support and motivate you and your team and to ensure consistent and safe practice for the offender, the employer and the Jobtrack service.
4 The guide considers: Engaging the employer Job sampling Sharing information Supporting disclosure Disclosure advice I hope you find our advice informative and useful. Ultimately, NIACRO hopes, with your help, this will lead to increased opportunities for people with convictions to access the labour market. Olwen Lyner Chief Executive, NIACRO
5 CONTENTS 1 Engaging the Employer 2 Preparation and planning Research is the key Research and sample questions to consider Follow up Before posting Job Sampling 8 Sharing information 12 Key points to consider Sharing information Storing information Supporting disclosure 16 The Rehabilitation of Offenders (NI) Order 1978 The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) (NI) Order 1979 Disclosure advice 20 Guide for employers Handling the information Dealing with subsequent discovery Guidance for individuals When to disclose Reasons why you should disclose How to disclose Do s and Don ts of disclosure Conclusion 26 Appendices 28
6 2 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER Employers play a key role in ensuring relevant, appropriate and safe employment opportunities for individuals with convictions. In an ever increasing, demanding and competitive labour market, it is vital to develop positive and ongoing relationships with employers across all sectors. It is important to plan how and when contact is made. The following should be taken into consideration before making any initial contact with employers. This information should then be used to form a strategy for any telephone conversation or face to face meeting you may undertake.
7 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER 3 Preparation and planning The key to successfully working with employers is the ability to prepare and plan for engagement. There are four basic principals that should be addressed to ensure positive outcomes: Goal setting Preparing questions Recording of information Follow-up. GOAL SETTING Set clear goals in order to identify what you want to achieve and ensure that your choice and use of questions will help to achieve that goal. PREPARE QUESTIONS Write down your questions on a notebook. This will help you keep focused on the purpose. See page 5 for research suggestions and sample questions. RECORD INFORMATION Your notebook is also valuable for taking down important information which can be used to follow up. FOLLOW UP Do not waste the opportunity. Where possible, respond immediately to points on which you have agreed follow up action is required. Also, make sure particular requests made by the employer are dealt with. Failing to follow up on agreed action will send out a message of unreliability and unprofessionalism. See Page 7 for advice on correspondence.
8 4 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide Research is the key Prior to any direct engagement with employers, you should consider carrying out localised labour market research. This will help to identify types of employment opportunities available and skills required. There are many methods for collecting information but the traditional methods of word of mouth, local papers and the Internet remain the most effective. The following diagram provides examples of where information on local employers can be found. HOW CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON EMPLOYERS? use the internet word of mouth in-house publication careers fairs and business fairs telephone contact with the business careers advice services business and trade directories existing contacts held by your team Having identified wider labour market opportunities it is essential to prepare for direct engagement with individual employers.
9 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER 5 It is important to find out as much information as possible about the employer/ business being approached in order to ensure an appropriate match. The following research areas and sample questions are a useful prompt for making initial contact with employers. Research and sample questions to consider 1. What type of skills does the company require of its workforce? Do employers require specific qualifications or experience? How many employees? How many and what departments does it have? 2. Where are they based? Are they local, national or international? Are there multiple locations and are there opportunities at these locations? Is the HR manager remotely or centrally sited? Are the sites easily accessible by bus or train? 3. What are the future plans for the company? Have they won new contracts? Will there be recruitment opportunities? 4. What methods are used for staff recruitment? Do they directly recruit or use an agency? If directly, who is responsible for staff recruitment? What recruitment agencies are used, if any?
10 Planning your approa is fundamental to long standing 6 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide 5. Does the company have offender friendly practices? Are the policies written and actively used? Are they familiar with NIACRO s Employment Equity Award or employment service? 6. Does the company offer job sampling/ volunteering opportunities (see page 8) What type of job sampling can they offer? Could the job sampling duration be flexible? Planning your approach with employers is fundamental to a successful and longstanding partnership. Whilst individual workers with a conviction may have positive experiences of working with employers, it is vital you develop a consistent approach to ensure best practice. Follow up Once you have researched the company and begun direct engagement, it is best practice to follow this up with a formal letter.
11 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER 7 Within the letter, you may wish to include: Details about why you have chosen to make contact with that particular business, which will show that you already know about the business. Address points on which you have agreed follow up action. How any particular requests the employer has made will be met. If you have a suitable client CV, include a copy with your letter. If appropriate, details of NIACRO training sessions which may be useful for the employer to attend. Promotional materials, such as the Working with Conviction guide or DVD. It is important you are clear about what you are saying or asking. Simple language is better than big words and long complicated sentences. Before posting It is important to check your letter before posting. No matter how good we are at writing, it is easy for anyone to miss small errors. A letter with no spelling mistakes and clear sentences always makes a good impression on an employer. ch with employers a successful and partnership
12 8 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide JOB SAMPLING Job sampling should provide individuals with the opportunity to develop skills, confidence and experience within the workplace based on their needs and employment aspirations. If you have been following this guide, you will have already identified employers who are willing to provide job sampling opportunities for offenders.
13 JOB SAMPLING 9 In order to ensure the experience is positive and beneficial for both the employer and the participant the following guidelines are recommended. Prior to planning any job sampling opportunity, it is important to discuss issues relating to welfare benefits. You must make sure that any opportunity does not negatively impact on the individual s current benefits. Make initial contact by telephone to: Introduce self. Discuss the possibility of job sampling opportunity and benefits this can provide to the employer. Request a meeting to discuss further. It is possible the employer will seek information about conviction at this stage. It is advisable to give information only in the context of the type of offence and then offer to discuss further at a faceto-face meeting.
14 10 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide The first meeting with the employer should include: Conviction and relevant risk assessment information. Confirmation that ongoing support will be provided by Jobtrack for both the employer and participant. The opportunity for the employer to take part in NIACRO s employer training. Agreement should be reached on: Duration. Identification of key support worker / mentor in the workplace, who should be the person who will be working most closely with the individual. Boundaries /agreements / protocols on confidentiality - who in the organisation needs to know? An introductory meeting should be arranged between the participant, their key worker and the employer.
15 JOB SAMPLING 11 If agreement is reached on a work sampling opportunity then the following must be agreed: The employer: List of duties and hours of work. Paperwork to be signed prior to start date (Appendix A). Health and safety requirements. Employer liability insurance checked. Induction. The participant: Attendance. Duties. Agreement and signing off on job sampling contract. Name and role of key worker/mentor. Eligibility of expenses. Letter explaining job sampling placement to Social Security Agency. At the end of the job sampling opportunity, agreed evaluation forms should be completed by both parties as part of continuous improvement (Appendix B). Job sampling is a useful model for breaking down barriers between employers and offenders. It provides the opportunity for offenders to demonstrate their willingness to work and their ability to do the job. Employers then recognise that having a conviction should not automatically exclude individuals from the workforce. If you have further questions, please talk to a Jobtrack Advisor, or call us on our advice line at
16 12 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide SHARING INFORMATION Organisations should consider and agree procedures for sharing information in relation to convictions. It should be part of a risk management process. In Northern Ireland, the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1988 is the legislation that determines how information should be used. This means documentation created and shared with third party organisations such as employers, training providers and colleges (either computerised or held manually) comes under the requirements of the Data Protection Act. We suggest you call us on for full guidance on how to share information and use the Act.
17 SHARING INFORMATION 13 Key points to consider To work with Jobtrack clients, you will need a referral form, provided by one of our external statutory partners (Northern Ireland Prison Service or Probation Board of Northern Ireland). You must verify with the individual that the conviction information on the referral form is accurate and relates to them. This is important; in order to ensure future referral information to other agencies is accurate and avoids a breach of DPA by passing inaccurate information to third parties. Ensure that the referral form is signed by the referral agent and the individual as a confirmation that both parties agree to content. Only on completion of this process can you begin to engage with the individual.
18 14 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide Sharing information At the point of referral, you must make sure the participant is fully aware that disclosure to other agencies may be necessary, but that information will only be shared with their consent. It is important all parties understand the terms of referral and what it means once signed. It means sensitive information must be handled confidentially, in order protect the personal information and safety of the participant. sensitive information must be handled confidentially
19 SHARING INFORMATION 15 Storing Information To ensure compliance with DPA and provide protection against potential claims of negligence, Jobtrack must adhere to NIACRO organisational policy documents relating to confidentiality and ICT. Particular attention must be given to the following: Storing documents confidentially and securely. All electronic information is securely stored and managed. Information is retained only for as long as necessary. Personal details of service users must not be discussed in public areas or with those who are not entitled to have it. Written records must be maintained that include what information has been shared, who it was shared with and reasons for sharing or not. This practice extends to the providers who work with us on the programme. For further information, contact us on
20 16 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide SUPPORTING DISCLOSURE A criminal record can be one of the main barriers to employment.
21 SUPPORTING DISCLOSURE 17 People with a criminal record are generally unsure about disclosing information when seeking employment. This is normally due to a lack of understanding about the relevant legislation and not wanting to jeopardise their chances of gaining employment. They know that not declaring information about convictions will break an employer s trust if found out at a later date and will potentially result in dismissal. One way to address these issues is to provide some information on the legislation and to encourage disclosure through fair recruitment practices. However, it must also be remembered there is an onus on employers to provide safe and supportive processes that encourage disclosure. The information contained below is a simple guide to highlight relevant legislation. NIACRO recommends you read Working with Conviction or call us on to find out how the legislation should be applied in practice.
22 18 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide The Rehabilitation of Offenders (NI) Order 1978 This is the sole piece of legislation aimed specifically at protecting the rights of rehabilitated offenders. Under it, ex-offenders who have stopped offending for a substantial period of time have the right not to disclose their criminal record when applying for most jobs. After a period of time, convictions can become spent making it legally right to say no when asked the question do you have a criminal record? It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an ex-offender on the grounds of spent convictions. The length of time (i.e. rehabilitation period) depends on the age at the time of conviction and the type of sentence received.
23 SUPPORTING DISCLOSURE 19 The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) (NI) Order 1979 (amended 1987, 2001, 2003 and 2009) Certain types of employment/occupations are excepted from the legislation meaning that all convictions including spent convictions must be declared and can be taken into account when assessing someone s suitability for work. The range of occupations excepted under the legislation continues to expand. Information on criminal convictions may be verified, depending on the nature of the post. Whilst this legislation was intended to support/ protect offenders it has a number of difficulties associated with it, specifically: Rehabilitation periods are amongst the longest in Europe. The list of excepted positions is extensive (and growing). It is confusing. The lack of clarity and understanding of the legislation is a major barrier for ex-offenders seeking employment. Jobtrack provides a range of support measures to both employers and individuals to address this and ensure safe and fair recruitment. Call us on to find out more.
24 20 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide DISCLOSURE ADVICE When advising clients on how to disclose their conviction, it is also useful to consider employer recruitment and retention procedures. The following pages offer advice on what employers should think about when recruiting someone with a conviction.
25 DISCLOSURE ADVICE 21 Guidance for employers The key factor in recruitment and selection is that the best person for the job is hired, regardless of conviction information. Employers should: Focus on a person s abilities, skills, experience, qualifications and potential. Consider the relevance of the conviction to the job in question. Recognise that having a criminal record does not always mean a lack of skills, qualifications and experience. Identify the risks to the organisation s business, customers, clients and employees. Employers should make sure they carry out an objective risk assessment in considering the relevance of the conviction to the post on offer. In regards to disclosed information there are a number of factors to consider: When the offence occurred. The seriousness of the offence. The frequency of offending. The person s circumstances at the time. An individual s attempt to go straight.
26 22 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide Handling the information Information regarding offences is kept confidential and shared only on a need-to-know basis. Applicants need to feel confident that information about their convictions will not be disclosed to others unless there is reason for doing so. Only relevant people should be informed of criminal record information. The successful applicant should be informed who in the organisation knows of the conviction and why the information has been disclosed. Dealing with subsequent discovery An employer does not have the right to refuse employment if a previous conviction comes to light when there had been no requirement to disclose it. However, if a real opportunity to declare convictions is given, then the employer may feel that failure to declare unspent conviction(s) is a serious breach of trust. Before taking action employers should consider: Why the person did not disclose the information. The relevance of the conviction to the job. The individual s employment record - evidence of previous convictions alone should not be used as an excuse to dismiss a person for poor job performance.
27 DISCLOSURE ADVICE 23 Guidance for individuals Many individuals with a criminal record expect that employers will react negatively when they learn about the conviction 2. This acts as a deterrent for ex-offenders to seek employment and change their lives. Other concerns identified include: The fear of being treated differently in work. Being uncertain about the law relating to declaring convictions. Feeling pressurised to take a chance and not disclose hoping no-one will find out. When to Disclose Mortgages. Bank Loans. Insurance (car & house). Licences (taxi). Employment. If an application form asks the question Do you have any convictions? Reasons why you should disclose It is the law. The employer may see that you are trying to make a fresh start and count this in your favour. You will not have to live with the worry of the employer finding out and then sacking you. It will show qualities of honesty and responsibility. It allows the employer to make an informed decision on the relevance of the conviction. 2 Home Office (2002), Breaking the Circle: a report on the review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, London: Home Office
28 24 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide How to Disclose A separate statement of disclosure This will give the individual a key opportunity to disclose the conviction in the best possible light and tell a potential employer what positive things have been learnt from the experience. It should be placed in a separate envelope and marked Private and Confidential. It should also be marked For the attention of the H.R Manager or other appropriate person (as per your knowledge of the company). Information to include when creating a statement of disclosure What the conviction was for and sentence received. If it was the result of substance misuse, state the courses you have attended for this. The particular circumstances surrounding the conviction. How circumstances may have changed. If anything has been learnt from the experience. Positive outcomes and responsibility taken since the conviction. Your honesty in disclosing the conviction. Reasons why the employer should give you a chance.
29 DISCLOSURE ADVICE 25 Dos & Don ts of disclosure Dos If a conviction question does not appear on the application form, there may be a separate process for disclosure Be prepared! You are not legally obliged to disclose if you are not asked to do so. Keep copies of all applications and disclosure information sent. Don ts Never withhold Unspent conviction information. Steer clear of the will discuss at interview response. Remember the interview is only to discuss capability. Never ignore the conviction question as failure to complete it may exclude you from the application.
30 26 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide CONCLUSION Even with a conviction, many people have the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and motivation to secure and sustain suitable employment, which are all primary considerations for employers seeking to recruit. If you have any questions regarding this guide, contact us on or us at
31 CONCLUSION 27 Don t just take our word for it To us it doesn t really matter we will interview everybody and take them on face value. We don t discriminate. We look at their personality and skills they bring to the job. First and foremost, that is very important. Patrick Stapleton, Hilton Hotels. Over the last couple of years, we have employed at least a dozen people with convictions. It has been a long-standing experience and it has also been a very rewarding one for us, both for the employee and the employer. Dominic McGeown, Botanic Inns
32 28 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide JOB SAMPLING AGREEMENT This agreement commits the Employer to carry out and complete, in conformity with the reasonable direction of NIACRO s Employability Programme Jobtrack, a scheme of training which will enable NIACRO to fulfil its funding obligations. 1 Provider / Participant Details COMPANY NAME CONTACT NAME AND TITLE SUPPORT WORKER NAME COMPANY ADDRESS POSTCODE TEL NO PARTICIPANT NAME CONTACT NUMBER JOBTRACK EMPLOYMENT OFFICER CONTACT NUMBER
33 APPENDIX A 29 2 Duration The placement is expected to continue for for hours per week weeks. However circumstances may dictate an earlier (or later) completion. 3 Attendance The placement attendance hours are am to day to pm, day. Meal breaks and tea breaks shall be in accordance with a variable rota determined by the employer. (Hours of attendance should be agreed with the employer and participant.) Programme participants should be allowed reasonable time for training, interviews, written exams or external assessment, court appearances, domestic emergencies and annual training courses or residentials. Illness should be reported on the first day of absence. A Doctor s certificate is needed for illness of more than seven days. 4 Location The placement is based at: However; you may be required to be placed at any location where the employer has clients or prospective clients.
34 30 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide 5 Expenses The placement is voluntary and is not paid employment. Jobtrack will be responsible for the payment of agreed out of pocket expenses. 6 Insurance The employer is liable for, and indemnifies NIACRO s Employability programmes against, any liability, loss, claim or proceedings what so ever arising under any statue or common law in respect of any personal injury or death and of any injury or damage as a result of carrying out this agreement, unless due to any act or neglect of NIACRO s Employability programmes. The employer must effect and maintain insurance to meet these requirements as well as statutory requirement under the Employers Liability (Defective Equipment & Compulsory Insurance) (NI) Order The employer shall also ensure adequate insurance cover before allowing a Participant to drive any vehicle in circumstances where a Certification of Insurance is required under Road Traffic legislation, EMPLOYERS AND PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE Y / N COMPANY CHECKED BY DATE CHECKED EXPIRES DATE CHECKED AGAIN 7 Termination of the Agreement Either party may terminate the agreement without giving reason by serving the other with notice in writing.
35 APPENDIX A 31 8 Placement Monitoring The employer is required to keep accounting records of all income and expenditure relating to the placing of an individual and to release these records for inspection, at any reasonable time, by authorised agents of NIACRO. Placed individuals will be released from duty in order to complete a regular review process with a staff member from Jobtrack. THE EMPLOYER SHALL PROVIDE NIACRO WITH MONTHLY ATTENDANCE RECORDS. 9 Declaration I have read and understood the above and am prepared to accept the conditions of the agreement. I can confirm that I have discussed and understand the placement participants background in relation to criminal convictions. I acknowledge receipt of this agreement together with copies of relevant policies. SIGNED NAME DATE (On behalf of the Employer) SIGNED NAME DATE (Placement Participant) SIGNED NAME DATE (On behalf of NIACRO)
36 32 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide JOB PLACEMENT EVALUATION FORM
37 APPENDIX B 33 PARTICIPANT NAME AREA OF WORK PLACEMENT START DATE PLACEMENT END DATE PLACEMENT SUPERVISOR PLACEMENT SUPPORT OFFICER We urge the evaluating supervisor to assess the participant s performance with him/her. This evaluation is important to the participant s personal and professional development. 1. Briefly describe the position and duties the participant carried out.
38 34 ENGAGING THE EMPLOYER A Best Practice Guide Using the following scale: Excellent 5 Above Average 4 Average 3 Below Average - 2 Poor 1 2. How would you rate the participant s: APPEARANCE PROBLEM SOLVING ATTITUDE TEAMWORKING CUSTOMER SERVICE VERBAL COMMUNICATION DEPENDABILITY WRITTEN COMMUNICATION 3. Any other comments (e.g. significant accomplishments): SIGNATURE OF SUPERVISOR DATE
39 79% of employers with experience of employing ex-offenders believe their experiences are no different to employees without a conviction. CIPD (2007) Employing ex-offenders to capture talent, London: CIPD
40 NIACRO Amelia House 4 Amelia Street Belfast BT2 7GS Tel: Web:
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