Have you ever noticed the tick box on job application forms asking ‘Do you have any unspent criminal convictions? Yes or no’? If you’d been fined £300 for a driving offence by a court, you’d have to tick that box for 5 years. For a prison sentence of over 2.5 years, you’d have to tick that box for the rest of your life. If you had to tick ‘yes’, would you feel that your potential to be a good employee, your passion and skills for the job shine through? When 9.2 million people in the UK have a criminal record, this is not a niche issue.

This issue costs our society £11 billion a year.

Over 60% of short-term prisoners re-offend within a year of release, at a cost to business, communities and taxpayers. When research shows that employment reduces offending by 33-50%, it’s in every community’s interest to reduce the barriers to work for people with criminal convictions.

Ex-offenders not only contribute as taxpayers, but contribute as good employees

A diverse, engaged workforce is essential to any business. Removing a default tick box is not about increasing risk or changing job specifications. It’s about benefiting the business by recruiting from a wider pool, only considering criminal convictions where they are relevant to a specific role. Someone with a criminal conviction made a mistake in the past. However, they may also be the best person for the job.

What is Ban the Box?

We believe that a tick box is a blunt instrument for employers to use as a basis to reject candidates who could have the right skills and abilities for the job. Through the Ban the Box campaign, we at Business in the Community are calling on all UK employers to remove the tick box asking whether a candidate has unspent convictions from application forms. We want UK employers to give people a second chance by considering skills and abilities first. Sign this petition to ask UK employers to Ban the Box and change their recruitment process.

The campaign has had success in the USA, led there by the National Employment Law Project. In the city of Minnesota, where the City Council banned the box, 57.4% of applicants with convictions in the last seven years were hired (2007-08), compared to just 5.7% hired before the box was removed (2004-6).

Why is Ban the Box the right thing to ask UK employers to do?

A survey of 300 UK-based employers shows that three quarters admit to using a criminal conviction to discriminate against an applicant. So we know that the majority of employers are missing out on many potential employees who may be put off from applying or are ‘screened out’. Companies like Alliance Boots have already committed to ban the box. They say they want to employ ex-offenders “if they’re the right people for the job.”

Daley, who has had a criminal record since he was a teenager and has secured a trainee position, explains why he is worried about the impact tick box will have on his career: “Any future employer can ask me if I have an unspent conviction and I have to tell them. I think that’s fair enough, they’ll want to know what’s happened and whether I am going to be a risk to their company.

“The problem is that at the moment most employers use the application form to find out about convictions. So the very first thing they know about me is that I have a conviction, not about your interest in the job, or your experience or skills, just the conviction. Once an employer sees that tick box lots of them are already ruling you out.”

Employment plays a major part in reducing levels of re-offending. Taxpayers, communities and employers alike will benefit from giving people with criminal convictions a fair opportunity to compete for employment. Removing the tick box takes away the opportunity for employers to immediately judge an applicant because they have a criminal record. Instead they see their suitability for the role first.

Ban the Box is a first step towards making this happen. Your support for this petition will show employers that now is the time to take that step.

FAQs on how and why businesses should take this action, what we mean by unspent convictions, and why we’re not suggesting changes for roles such as doctors or teachers where full criminal records checks are required. Find out more

Tweet your support with #BantheBoxUK