Amid shortages in areas such as hospitality, the Guernsey Caring for Ex-Offenders charity yesterday urged business leaders to consider taking on former offenders.
‘I’d like to suggest, respectfully, that we need to think a bit more creatively about using the workforce that is actually available right here, right now, in Guernsey,’ said charity deputy co-ordinator Andrew Kewell.
‘Of course we understand that there may be reasons why people with certain conviction types would not be suitable in some employment settings. However, if we write off everyone at the first hurdle, I believe we are missing opportunities to fill vacancies and provide meaningful work to a potential hidden workforce here in the island.’
Addressing the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce business lunch yesterday, he challenged employers to have a dialogue with the charity and consider employing ex-offenders.
‘There are no stereotypes and we have people from all backgrounds, with lots of experience, and sometimes very good qualifications. Is it right that a person with a prison record should be prevented from ever working again?
‘Is it right that we condemn people who want to work to a life on States benefits? Because right now, in many cases, that’s what we are doing. Ex-offenders are people who’ve made mistakes and paid the price – often, a significant price.’
That included losing their liberty, livelihood, home, business and in many cases their family support.
‘Are you an employer that can look beyond the stereotype and give people a second chance?
‘Businesses that believe everyone deserves the opportunity to start again with a clean sheet put their belief into practice by registering as a clean sheet employer,’ said Mr Kewell, referring to an initiative to match ex-offenders with employment.
‘Employers actively consider clean sheet members for employment within the law, the terms of the individuals’ licence and their own recruitment policy. Members, our service users, can confidently own up to having a conviction and know that it won’t automatically disqualify them from the employment process.’
In many cases, Mr Kewell said, people’s applications would be automatically rejected if they ticked a box in the application progress that they had a conviction and their experience not looked at.
‘I’m currently working with people who have in the last year applied for 80 jobs or more than 80 jobs. And very often they don’t even receive a reply to their application, let alone consideration of their skills, experience or availability,’ he added.
‘Businesses need a diverse and highly skilled workforce. They want to improve retention rates and drive down recruitment costs. There is growing evidence to support a sound business case for a recruitment policy that includes people with convictions.’