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Council becomes first local authority in the country to Ban the Box

Bristol City Council has become the first local authority in the UK to become a ‘Ban the Box’ employer and remove barriers to employment for people with criminal convictions.

The council will now use job applications without a tick box that asks applicants about their criminal record. This will apply to all of the authority’s job applications for roles that don’t require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Roles that require such checks often relate to working with children or vulnerable groups of people.

The move comes after the Council’s Human Resources Committee recommended the council should become a Ban the Box employer in autumn 2016. Following positive feedback from councillors, the council has spent time updating policies and the training provided to recruiters.

This change will mean that anyone with an unspent conviction will not be asked about their past at the beginning of the recruitment process. Only successful candidates will be asked about previous convictions. The council retains the right to withdraw a job offer in the event it is appropriate to do so.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Everyone applying for a job at the council should be given the same encouragement and opportunity irrespective of their background. Bristol is a place where the opportunities to share in the city’s success are not evenly distributed and barriers exist that prevent some from fulfilling their potential. Our aim is to remove one of those barriers and send a message that we’re interested in getting to know the person applying for the job first and begin our conversation there.”

Speaking at an Employer Champions Network event hosted by Business in the Community, Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member and Chair of Bristol City Council’s Human Resources Committee, said: “Almost seventy percent of sentences handed down by the courts are fines but they generate a record that most employers ask applicants to disclose when applying for a job. We’re taking this step because we want to be an employer that encourages and provides opportunities for people from all backgrounds.

“There’s also a benefit for us in that we’re unblocking a barrier that will ensure we’re making the most of Bristol’s deep talent pool. We’re a city of broad talents and being one of the largest employers in the West of England we want to show others that this approach does not open the organisation to greater risk. Instead it increases an employer’s ability to recruit the right person for the right job whilst still ensuring the right and proper checks are in place.”

‘Ban the Box’ is an international campaign that originated in the USA and calls on employers to remove the barriers to employment for ex-offenders by:
• Removing requests for disclosure of unspent criminal convictions on job application forms
• Evaluating the skills, abilities and persona of all candidates equally before asking about criminal convictions

The campaign is led in the UK by Business in the Community, the Prince’s Responsible Business Network, who have been working with the council to help it become a ‘Ban the Box’ employer.

Business in the Community’s Employment Director, Cath Sermon said: “Bristol City Council has taken a huge step towards reducing reoffending in Bristol through its inclusive recruitment practices. We’d now like to see all local authorities Ban the Box. As some of the largest employers in their localities, councils are in a unique position to give local people with convictions the chance to turn their lives around and make a positive contribution to society.”