THE period during which some offenders have to disclose their convictions to employers could be cut by the Scottish Government.
Ministers are looking to make the change in a bid to reduce re-offending rates by helping criminals find work.
Three-quarters of employers admit discriminating against those with previous convictions when they are recruiting new staff, with the Scottish Government saying it is eight times harder for offenders to find work.
Paul Wheelhouse, minister for community safety and legal affairs, said: “It is clear that if we are serious about reducing reoffending in Scotland’s communities, we need to do more to support people back into work after they’ve repaid their debts to society.”
The Scottish Government is to consult on changing the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 to shorten the time frame for disclosing convictions to employers.
Ministers propose that offenders who have been sentenced to up to a year in jail would only have to disclose their conviction for a maximum of three years – the length of their sentence plus two years.
While those who are sentenced to between 12 and 30 months in prison currently have to reveal their criminal history for a total of ten years, ministers propose reducing this to the length of their sentence plus four years. But those who have been sentenced to more than 30 months in prison will always have to disclose their conviction to employers, as will those wanting to work in certain jobs such as with children or the elderly.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “It is absolutely right that those who have committed crimes serve their sentences, but it is equally important that once those who have committed crimes have paid back, they are allowed to try and move on with their lives in a positive way.
“We know that getting people back into a job drastically reduces their chances of reoffending as it gives them financial security, a stable environment, routine and improves their self-esteem.
“Often, these individuals also have children and families to support so improving access to employment not only benefits those with criminal convictions, but wider society too, and reduces inequality.”
He was speaking as the Scottish Government hosted a “Working2Change” conference in Edinburgh, which focused on how best to help offenders find work after they have served their time.
Richard Thomson, director of the charity Recruit With Conviction, said: “People with minor criminal convictions can all too often find the path blocked to employment. This can lead to increased levels of poverty.
“The steps by the Scottish Government, announced in the consultation today, are positive in helping ensure people no longer have to tell recruiters about old and minor convictions, and are a sensible solution to help more people find work.”