Sir Richard Branson is reaching out to the talent among
ex-offenders and encouraging other businesses to look past
individuals' criminal convictions when recruiting for suitable
roles. This comes after Mr Branson's first push to employ
ex-offenders in 2011 and as unemployment in the UK hits its lowest
level since the financial crisis in 2007.
Mr Branson states that in the UK, re-offenders cost
taxpayers more than £13 billion per year. However, if
ex-offenders can find work, the risk of re-offending is
significantly reduced. To support other businesses with this
initiative, Virgin Trains is launching a toolkit to offer practical
advice on hiring ex-offenders.
Over the last three years, Virgin Trains has employed 30
ex-offenders, 25 of which still work for the company across various
roles. To the knowledge of Virgin Trains, no ex-offender employee
or candidate has re-offended and the company is looking to boost
its numbers of ex-offender employees as much as possible over the
From a legal position, employers can seek information about
employees' criminal record history either through voluntary
disclosure or, where the individual's role requires it, by
official criminal record checks through the Disclosure and Barring
Service (DBS). If undertaken, these checks should be made once an
applicant has been successful (and the offer of employment made
conditional on a satisfactory check). The employer might also want
to refresh these checks if an employee's role changes. Checks
should be periodically refreshed as a matter of course where their
role involves working with a vulnerable group of people e.g. young
Mr Branson is proud to point out that the Virgin group does not
conduct criminal records checks unless it's legally obliged to
do so (and therefore Virgin Trains may employ more than the 25
ex-offenders it has hired through its ex-offenders program). It is
good practice for employers to consider whether a criminal records
check is actually necessary for a given role before undertaking one
in respect of an employee or a new recruit. Even if a check reveals
that the individual concerned does have a criminal record, the
employer should give consideration to whether the offence committed
will actually impact on the ability of that person to perform the
job that they are employed to do, or have been offered.
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