Ex-offenders: a new source of talent for facilities management

“I’m clear. There’s a real commercial advantage to our work with ex-offenders.” says Scott Hill, Human Resources Director – Commercial at Interserve. “I get access to a huge pool of talent that a large percentage of employers aren’t even looking at. Some of the most highly skilled people I’ve ever met have been in prisons.”

The facilities management sector has particular recruitment challenges. Across the country, jobs like cleaning, catering, outdoor maintenance and front-of-house can be notoriously difficult to fill. This is partly the reason why companies such as Interserve, Sodexo, ISS and Amey have signed up to Business in the Community’s Ban the Box campaign.

More than 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record and offenders we’ve spoken with tell us that seeing a tick box that asks about convictions on a recruitment form puts them off applying for roles.

So, just removing the tick box from application forms and online systems can encourage ex-offenders to apply, opening up companies to willing talent.

Access to skilled, committed workers

Anecdotally, managers who have embraced the idea of employing ex-offenders say that they are often more committed, more reliable and more hard-working because they’ve been given a second chance.

Scott Hill says: “We reduce our cost per hire and we get committed workers who are trained to meet the needs of our business, so it makes a lot of sense.”

Managing risk, not increasing it

Business in the Community and the Ban the Box campaign recognises that facilities management companies need to recruit to a vast range of roles for many different clients. All parties are very aware of the reputational and operational risks inherent in any recruitment process.

Companies who have banned the box have found ways to adapt their recruitment processes so that they get to know a candidate before they ask about convictions. This means they are able to fairly weigh up the risk against the type and circumstances of the offense, as well as its relevance to the role they are recruiting for. In fact, for Interserve, Ban the Box provided an opportunity to improve their recruitment processes across the company.

Recruiting offenders and ex-offenders is not as hard as you think

Interserve has set up a facilities management training academy within a prison to prepare offenders for the jobs that they constantly need to fill, while social enterprises such as Blue Sky and Bounceback actively recruit ex-offenders for facilities management roles. Many more companies in other sectors also directly employ ex-offenders or work with partners to do so.

Aside from filling a business need, providing jobs for people with criminal convictions can help them to get their lives back on track and reduce the cycle of reoffending.

Sodexo UK and Ireland HR director Andy Rogers says:

“We want to attract the best people and recognise that the tick box may have been keeping us from a very valuable pool of talent. In addition, as a company responsible for both prison and probation contracts, we understand how important employment is to rehabilitation.”

Over 60% of short-term prisoners re-offend within a year of release at huge cost to employers, taxpayers and society. However, employment reduces offending by 33-50% so it's in everyone’s interest to reduce the barriers to work for people with criminal convictions.

Sign up now

Take the first step to accessing untapped local talent and sign up to Ban the Box. To find out more about the campaign and recruiting ex-offenders, please get in touch.

Jessica Rose is Campaign Manager for BITC’s Employment for Excluded Groups Team. She leads on our Ban the Box campaign, which is currently focusing on the Facilities Management sector