News & Views

Growing movement to “Ban the Box” on job application forms

BY Fiona McBeath
Employment law
BG Purple

In many application forms for jobs in the UK, there can be found a small box asking candidates to confirm whether they have any previous criminal convictions.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 requires ex-offenders to provide information about unspent convictions to prospective employers if so requested and there is no protection available to candidates who are rejected as a result of this disclosure. In the United Kingdom 1 in 5 people aged 10 or above has a criminal conviction of some description – and this number is rising.  Many of these people have sought-after skills, often gained during the rehabilitation process.  

The “Ban the Box” movement argue that being forced to tick this box drastically reduces the ex-offender’s chances of achieving a job. Among ex-offenders the re-offending rate of those who have a job, and therefore a reliable income, is much lower than their unemployed counterparts. The current rate of re-offending within the UK is thought to cost the taxpayer around £11 billion every year; therefore a lower rate of re-offending is clearly of benefit to the United Kingdom as a whole.  

While widely used, the tick box is not a legal obligation. No one is suggesting that this section be removed from every application form. However, what is being suggested by the “Ban the Box” movement is a drastic rethink.  They recommend that this section be extended so that the applicant can give more details about their offence, such as the number and type of offences, as well as the age they were when they committed them.  Perhaps the most important suggested change is that this section could give the ex-offender the chance to state how they have moved away from their criminal ways, rather than just being a box that statistically leaves them with a much lower chance of success.

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