The Billionaire behind Virgin Group is making a strong move to encourage businesses to hire job applicants with previous criminal convictions. Richard Branson has actually been an advocate for years, claiming hiring former criminals “increases the talent pool, lowers the price tag of re-offending, nurtures entrepreneurial spirit, and contributes to safer communities.”
Not only does he “talk the talk,” but he “walks the walk.” Branson has been hiring people from prisons and rehabilitation programs to work for his British Trains company. In the past year 3% of new hires have come through the recruitment initiative set out by Branson (total of 25 staff).
A guidebook was developed to help other businesses seek out suitable UK prisons and charities for employers to work with. The guide book explains that recruiting ex-offenders is not an added cost to the employer and results in hiring highly motivated employees. It is estimated that people who re-offend in the UK cost taxpayers more than $17 billion a year; however, that number would be reduced drastically if those same offenders were employed.
It seems Branson is making his own “ban the box” push. This thinking falls lock step with legislation passed by the New York City Council (Fair Chance Act) which prohibits employer from inquiring about an job applicant previous criminal history until after a job offer has been received. Employers really need to develop a consistent policy when reviewing criminal background checks, to ensure they are giving job applicant an opportunity to explain any adverse information reported.