Irish Penal Reform Trust

NI: Employer Perspectives on Hiring People with Convictions in Northern Ireland

6th October 2021

Ulster University and NIACRO recently undertook a quantitative study to explore employer practices and concerns, and to investigate what may increase the likelihood of them hiring people with convictions. The study, which involved conducting a survey of 115 employers , focusing on the factors that affect their likelihood of hiring people with convictions. The results of the study were presented at a launch on the 6th of October.

Information Available to Employers

28% of employers surveyed stated that they were unsure of their organisation’s non-discrimination policy when it came to conviction histories. Those who said their company does have such a policy/statement, felt more confident in knowing when to ask applicants about convictions, and more informed and supported than those who were unsure/didn’t have such a policy.

The study also found that 64% of job applicants are not given a chance to explain prior convictions on application forms, which means that employers are in the dark as to the context of applicants’ prior convictions. The study therefore supports the “Ban the Box” campaign, which encourages employers to utilise disclosure statements in order for applicants to explain their convictions, and to ask conviction history questions at a later point in the application process.

Another issue the survey uncovered is that 27% of employers may allow applicants to begin work before a criminal record check is complete, meaning that employees with conviction histories may be at risk of losing employment shortly after being hired.

In our submission to the Department of Justice Public Consultation on Spent Convictions in November 2020, IPRT similarly recommended that statute reflect a non-discriminatory approach to hiring people with conviction histories, and to push back questions about convictions until later in the hiring process.

Employer’s Responses

97% of employers believed that rehabilitation of people with conviction histories was possible, with 78% of employers who worked with people with convictions in the past stating they had a ‘generally positive’ experience with them.

85% of employers surveyed referenced concerns regarding the safety of current employees and clients when considering hiring people with convictions. Fewer employers (45%) were concerned with public perceptions should they hire people with conviction histories, and fewer still (37%) feared losses or damages. This is significant, as 33% felt there were not adequate supports available to them regarding the hiring of people with convictions, meaning that more information and support is needed. A promising finding is that less than 1% of employers would ‘definitely not’ consider hiring someone with a conviction history, meaning that most employers are not entirely dissuaded from hiring those with convictions.

In terms of the factors that would increase the likelihood that employers would hire those with conviction histories, a majority referenced proof of rehabilitation (83%), more information and support (78%), and corporate social responsibility (67%).


In order to make employers feel more secure in hiring people with conviction histories, the study recommends creating proofs of rehabilitation, encouraging employers to use disclosure statements, and giving more information and support to employers during the hiring process.

To make employers implement fair hiring practices, the study recommends the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign, explained above, to have an award for employers who demonstrate a willingness to hire people with convictions, and to promote a fair and balanced media that does not negatively portray people with convictions.

There is an absence of in-depth research on employer perspectives on hiring people with convictions in the Republic of Ireland. This timely research from NI will inform IPRT’s engagement with the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 when it returns to the Oireachtas in late 2021.

While the research is not available online (at the time of writing), all credit for the research lies with Ulster University and NIACRO.

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