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September 26, 2017 IPRT
IPRT event highlights employer experience of hiring ex-offenders


Tuesday, 26th September 2017

IPRT event highlights employer experience of hiring ex-offenders

Irish employers are missing out on a wealth of untapped potential, talent and skills if they exclude people with convictions from interview lists. That’s according to Acting Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Fíona Ní Chinnéide, who was speaking at a seminar hosted by the IPRT today (26.09.17).

The event, entitled ‘Working with Conviction’, focused on the recruitment potential of people with convictions and with experience of imprisonment, to encourage better employer responses to former offenders and to provide leadership to local employers.

Ms Ní Chinnéide said: “As Ireland moves towards full employment, finding the right staff is an increasing challenge for employers.  People with convictions for offending behaviour can offer huge potential to any workforce, and are highly motivated when given the opportunity to work. However, preconceptions often prevent employers from seeing beyond the conviction.

“These preconceptions can stray into recruitment for education and training courses. Because of this, having a criminal history can present life-long obstacles to work, education, training and other aspects of life. Studies show that being able to access employment and training is crucial in preventing a return to offending, which, in turn, strengthens communities and makes society safer.”

The event was addressed with a keynote by Chief Executive of Timpson Limited, James Timpson OBE. One of the UK’s leading retail outlets, the company has paved the way in establishing strong recruitment and training practice aimed at people with convictions. It employs more than 400 people with convictions, including those who have served prison sentences.

Speaking at today’s event, he said: “If we did not give people with convictions the opportunity to start again in employment, we would be overlooking some really great talent. Over the past 13 years, we have been able to recruit some amazing personalities, people who really want to work, who want to get stuck in, and who truly contribute to our business.

“Today, ex-offenders make up about 10 per cent of our workforce. Many of them have been with us for years, have come up through the ranks, and some are now employed as shop managers. What I find particularly striking about this cohort of our employees is their huge loyalty towards the company, their punctuality and dedication.

“I would encourage employers to dip their toe into the water and interview people with convictions to draw from untapped talent and widen their talent pool, especially in the context of a shrinking labour market.”

Ms Ní Chinnéide added: “James Timpson’s positive experience of recruiting and working with ex-offenders clearly highlights the benefits to employers of including people with convictions in their workforce, while at the same time helping these people to rebuild a life after committing an offence.

“Under the Spent Convictions legislation, which was signed into law in Ireland last year, employers can no longer ask for information about certain minor convictions more than seven years old. This is removing barriers to employment, education and training for tens of thousands of people in Ireland who have moved on from their offending behaviour.

“While this legislation has been a step in the right direction, it is limited in its application and we urge the Government to increase the range of convictions eligible to become spent. We also call on Irish employers to look beyond criminal records and not to impose blanket bans on people with convictions but instead take a proportionate response to information that is disclosed.”

The seminar also featured a panel discussion of expert speakers, including Chief Executive of IASIO (Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders), Paddy Richardson; Manager, Pathways Centre, Niall Walsh; Barrister-at-law, Mairéad Deevy; and Philip Richardson, former Youth Cultivator at the Solas Project.

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