Employing People with Convictions

Supporting business to build inclusive, thriving communities is at the heart of the work of BITCI. Through our Inclusive Workplace Pledge – Elevate, we have set ourselves a vision to build a workforce that is fully reflective of our society.

Despite being at full employment we know that certain groups experience disproportionate unemployment and experience many barriers to entering the workforce. One such group includes people with convictions.

IASIO – The Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities – is the leading advocacy organisation on employing people with convictions in Ireland. At a recent BITCI Peer Circle event for Elevate Signatories, we were joined by Barry Owens, Operations Manager with IASIO who shared insights and strategies for building inclusive workforces that include people with convictions.


During the discussion, we learned that many people that end up with convictions have experienced socio-economic deprivation, family problems, difficulties at school and so on. These early challenges can lead to a lack of choices that then propels them into crime. In fact, people from disadvantaged communities tend to dominate the population amongst people with convictions. Once in prison individuals will then go off the lists of social support like housing, support payments etc., which leads to a vicious circle of convictions. There is a disconnection from the outside world and society in general.

Often people with convictions will de-select themselves from applying for jobs, their level of disadvantage is so great they don’t see themselves in the workforce. Stigma and public perception can make it harder to settle back into society. In addition there may not be sufficient personal support or resources, so when something goes wrong there is nothing to fall back on and it can be very easy to fall into a cycle of convictions.

Inclusive workplaces

There is ample research to indicate that employment is a significant factor in reducing re-offending, but employers can be reluctant to hire people with a conviction. However, due to their difficulty finding employment and perhaps limited options, an individual with a conviction is more likely to become a long-term employee, if they are given an opportunity, treated fairly and paid a decent wage. Building an inclusive workforce involves creating access to opportunity for all potential candidates regardless of background or personal circumstances.

Recognising this, more and more companies are committed to developing objective and transparent recruitment policies and practices that give people with criminal convictions, who are skilled and able to work, the opportunity to compete fairly for roles and move on from their conviction.

For companies starting this journey, some considerations

  • Judge candidates first and foremost based on their skills and suitability for a role.
  • Proactively implement inclusion policies that address working with people with convictions.
  • Build clear communication with staff about diversity and how it extends to people with convictions.
  • Support staff to be respectful to people of all backgrounds including people with convictions.
  • Assign a point of contact for the new hire to reach out to in case they have any issues.
  • Initiate open dialogue between the key contact and the new hire. The new hire may have anxiety about social situations at workplace, conversations with new colleagues etc.
  • Be sensitive to early challenges the new hire might experience, for example they may have difficulty in arranging for basic resources like daily bus fare to come to office, lunch money, child minder/ support etc.

At BITCI, we strongly encourage companies to partner with organisations like IASIO with a view to building an ongoing relationship so that together with you, they tailor support on the basis of business needs and ambition while assessing what works best for the employer and the employee.

More information and resources for hiring people with convictions is available from the IASIO website or by contacting Barry Owens at bowens@iasio.ie.

Elevate the Inclusive Workplace Pledge aims to build a workforce that is reflective of the diversity within society. For more information see the BITCI website or by contacting Linda O’Sullivan at losullivan@bitc.ie.

Find out more about the Elevate Pledge.

Related News