Criminal record checking and employment: the importance of policy and proximity

Employment is essential to the rehabilitation of offenders, yet employers routinely check criminal records and rely on them to deny offenders employment. To manage these practices many jurisdictions use spent conviction and anti-discrimination schemes; there have also been recent campaigns aimed at...

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Published in:The Australian and New Zealand journal of criminology
Main Author: Heydon, Georgina (Author)
Other Authors: Naylor, Bronwyn (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2018
In:The Australian and New Zealand journal of criminology
Year: 2018, Volume: 51, Issue: 3, Pages: 372-394
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Employment is essential to the rehabilitation of offenders, yet employers routinely check criminal records and rely on them to deny offenders employment. To manage these practices many jurisdictions use spent conviction and anti-discrimination schemes; there have also been recent campaigns aimed at ‘banning the box’, requiring that questions about criminal record are deferred to a later point when the person could address them in interview. This article draws on findings from surveys and interviews with human resources personnel about their criminal record checking practices to identify some key concerns of employers and highlight areas for challenging employer practices. The study highlights the influence on employment decisions of external factors - legislation, government policy and industry regulation - and of internal considerations about proximity of the decision maker to the applicant and potential proximity to other staff. The willingness of some employers to engage with applicants opens up the possibilities for people with a criminal record to demonstrate their readiness to desist from offending and to counter stereotypes about offenders. Where there is no scope for, or willingness to attempt, such discretionary engagement, however, it is likely that employers will prioritize a risk-averse approach to employment, pre-emptively excluding potentially productive employees, and putting such ex-offenders at risk of deeper exclusion.
ISSN:1837-9273
DOI:10.1177/0004865817723410