Virgin Trains goes full steam ahead in employing ex-offenders

Sir Richard Branson is reaching out to the talent among ex-offenders and encouraging other businesses to look past individuals’ criminal convictions when recruiting for suitable roles. This comes after Mr Branson’s first push to employ ex-offenders in 2011 and as unemployment in the UK hits its lowest level since the financial crisis in 2007.
Mr Branson states that in the UK, re-offenders cost  taxpayers more than £13 billion per year. However, if ex-offenders can find work, the risk of re-offending is significantly reduced. To support other businesses with this initiative, Virgin Trains is launching a toolkit to offer practical advice on hiring ex-offenders.
Over the last three years, Virgin Trains has employed 30 ex-offenders, 25 of which still work for the company across various roles. To the knowledge of Virgin Trains, no ex-offender employee or candidate has re-offended and the company is looking to boost its numbers of ex-offender employees as much as possible over the coming years.
From a legal position, employers can seek information about employees’ criminal record history either through voluntary disclosure or, where the individual’s role requires it, by official criminal record checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). If undertaken, these checks should be made once an applicant has been successful (and the offer of employment made conditional on a satisfactory check). The employer might also want to refresh these checks if an employee’s role changes. Checks should be periodically refreshed as a matter of course where their role involves working with a vulnerable group of people e.g. young children.
Mr Branson is proud to point out that the Virgin group does not conduct criminal records checks unless it’s legally obliged to do so (and therefore Virgin Trains may employ more than the 25 ex-offenders it has hired through its ex-offenders program). It is good practice for employers to consider whether a criminal records check is actually necessary for a given role before undertaking one in respect of an employee or a new recruit. Even if a check reveals that the individual concerned does have a criminal record, the employer should give consideration to whether the offence committed will actually impact on the ability of that person to perform the job that they are employed to do, or have been offered.

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Victoria Albon

About Victoria Albon

Victoria has experience of advising on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious employment law issues. This includes significant experience of defending a wide range of claims in the employment tribunal, including claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination as well as claims for unlawful deductions of wages, holiday pay and under TUPE. Victoria regularly advises on non-contentious matters including the application of TUPE, handling collective redundancy consultations and changing terms and conditions.

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