CIPD warns employers against criminal bias

The CIPD has warned employers to
be sensitive in dealing with employee information when a law giving them access
to criminal records is introduced next year.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation suggests that provisions in the Police Act (1997), which take effect
in 2002, could increase discrimination against offenders and increase the
chance of them re-offending.

"The research shows that employing
offenders is something employers are not comfortable with," said Dianah
Worman, adviser on diversity to the CIPD.

"The availability of
records will mean employers will have to become more efficient in dealing with
information sensitively and making judgements on the relevance of the
offences."

Under the present rules
employers are not permitted to check applicants’ criminal records unless the
job involves working with children or has security implications. When the
Police Act (1997) is fully implemented it will give all employers access to the
criminal records of job applicants.

"There are certain jobs
where employers need to ensure people don’t have certain convictions – child
abuse, for example. The problem is that employers have not been used to dealing
with this kind of information and these records will show all kinds of
convictions, which could throw employers," said Worman.

The survey shows that seven in
10 employers would ask for a disclosure and that a significant number would be
unwilling to recruit even those with convictions for minor offences.

By Ross Wigham

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