Will the Amended Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act 1974 Improve Job Prospects?

On 28 October 2023, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 was amended, shortening the time ex-offenders must declare specific convictions. It could be suggested that this has resulted from such individuals having poor job prospects. Furthermore, if the amendments improve the employability of individuals with convictions, it could help with the current skill shortage employers face.

We begin by looking at individuals with criminal records’ difficulties getting work. Then, we discuss the benefits employers could gain from hiring these people. Finally, we explore how the amended legislation could improve ex-offenders’ chances of securing work.

Ex-Offenders Seen as Last Option for Employers

It seems the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 could have been amended to improve the job prospects of ex-offenders. Research undertaken by Sodexo highlighted some of the problems these individuals face.

Despite six in ten employers saying they’d consider hiring an ex-offender, 17% would only do so if the position hadn’t been filled within six months. This suggests employers are still wary of hiring people with criminal records and only consider them as a last resort.

To strengthen this suggestion, a quarter of employers said they feared an employee with a criminal record would re-offend. The same amount had safety concerns for their other employees. Furthermore, 23% of the respondents didn’t trust an ex-offender to behave correctly.

Therefore, the research carried out by Sodexo shows the struggles people with a criminal record face. They could experience lengthy periods of unemployment while they wait for positions not to be filled, and even then, employers may not trust them. So, the amended Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 could prove vitally important.

Benefits of Hiring Ex-Offenders

In addition to ex-offenders’ struggles finding job offers, Sodexo outlined the skill shortage employers currently face. According to them, 62% of employers find it challenging to fill positions. Moreover, 43% of respondents found filling more than ten vacancies hard.

This is where the untapped workforce could come to the rescue. The Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) said that 14-17% of the US population makes up the hidden workforce. AIHR adds that this forgotten workforce comprises, among others, caregivers, retirees and ex-inmates. Therefore, they suggest that these individuals could be the answer to the skill shortages employers currently have to contend with.

Although these figures are specific to the US population, the same principle could be used in the UK. As we’ve previously discussed, ex-offenders struggle to obtain work, and employers are finding it difficult to recruit. As such, it could be suggested that hiring this untapped workforce, which includes ex-offenders, could help reduce the shortage of required skills.

What’s more, Phil Martin, the founder of the ex-offender employment agency Ex-seed, stated that once such individuals are employed, they’re loyal and hard-working. This is because they understand the chance they’ve been given. Therefore, in addition to reducing the skill shortage, employers may want to consider hiring individuals with criminal records for their potential positive work ethic.

How the Amended Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 Could Help

Despite the skill shortage and recruitment struggles employers currently face, they still seem reluctant to hire ex-offenders. This is why the amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 could be vital in improving the job prospects of people with criminal records.

With the amendments made, the length of time before eligible convictions have “become spent” has been reduced. This benefits ex-offenders, as once this period of time is up, they’re no longer legally required to disclose it during a job application or interview. At such time, employers wouldn’t know they’re an ex-offender, potentially removing preconceptions about the individual and improving their employment chances.

Changes to Spent Periods

Previously, custodial sentences of over four years would never be spent, whereas now, they will be after seven years. There are exceptions, though, such as serious violent, sexual and terrorism offences, which never become spent.

Additionally, custodial sentences of two and a half to four years will now be spent after four years, previously seven. However, sentences of one to two and a half years remain being spent after four years.

Then, sentences ranging from six months to a year have reduced from being spent after four years to just one. Finally, sentences up to six months will be spent after a year, which was previously two.

Further Amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

The amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 outline that if an individual re-offends during these periods, they will be extended. Also, the period before a conviction becomes spent for those under 18 is half of that for adults, as discussed above.

In conclusion, the amended Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 may have come at the right time. With employers facing a skill shortage and ex-offenders struggling to find employment, these amendments may help solve both issues. Ultimately, we will only discover the benefits of these amendments with time.