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Viewpoint: The industry's most wanted?

22 July 2015
Viewpoint: The industry's most wanted?

Many companies aren't keen on employing ex-offenders, but there are success stories, says Institute of Hospitality chief executive Peter Ducker

Recruiting qualified, experienced personnel is an ongoing challenge for many hospitality businesses and competition for well-qualified employees can be fierce. A People 1st report recently highlighted the shortage of chefs in particular. However, there is a potentially untapped resource for hospitality managers: ex-offenders.

I know of one hotel kitchen that successfully employed an ex-prisoner who had served a 12-year sentence for murder. A commercial kitchen might not seem like the most appropriate environment for a murderer, but thanks to close collaboration with prison staff and upfront and honest communication, the hotel staff and management felt comfortable about the arrangement.

Changing employer perceptions and showing that ex-offenders can benefit a business is a challenge. Someone who has recently been released from prison and wants to change their life for the better needs employers to look past their mistakes and take them for what they are now.

Of course, not all ex-offenders have been involved in anything as dramatic as murder. According to Nacro, the crime reduction charity, over 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record and some may already be working for you. So who makes up this population of ex-offenders? Consider the following key statistics:

  • 68% of all sentences handed down by courts are fines.
  • Only 7.9% of offenders are given immediate custodial sentences.
  • 72% of those who had employed someone with a criminal record said they were equally or more trustworthy than other staff.

For businesses, hiring an ex-offender can satisfy a number of different needs, whether they be financial, moral or societal. It can even assist a company in meeting its corporate and social responsibility initiatives. The benefits for the individual can be even greater.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development conducted a survey of employers that showed "the employers' experiences in employing ex-offenders were far more positive" than expected. Employers reported that re-offending when in employment was very rare. In addition, the majority of the employers found that ex-offenders integrated well with other staff, were reliable, had good attitudes and were honest.

Ex-offenders are looking for someone to give them a chance. If given the opportunity, ex-offenders can be keen to prove that they are loyal and hard working. Stable employment for an ex-offender can reduce the risk of re-offending and give them confidence. It is a win-win situation for the employer, the employee and society as a whole.

There are some matters to consider when determining whether an ex-offender is suitable for a vacancy in your business. Luckily, a number of resources exist to help businesses make the right decision. For further information, search out Narco, the Ministry of Justice and the Clink charity, which trains prisoners for catering jobs.

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