Small UK business owners employing ex-offenders could be given financial incentives in the form of tax breaks to do so, after a new parliamentary committee attempts to improve the employment prospects of former prisoners.
The parliamentary work and pensions committee of MPs has put forward the “Support for ex-offenders” report to propose tax breaks for companies employing ex-offenders in the form of national insurance reductions.
As well as offering direct financial incentives, the report also concluded that government should look at other ways to “recognise and reward” business owners employing ex-offenders.
MPs said that employing ex-offenders could “be a factor in procurement and commissioning decisions”, something that would be of great benefit to the number of small UK firms struggling to access public contracts.
It was also suggested by the committee that employing ex-offenders could close the gap in skills found in some industries, with the construction and manufacturing sectors cited as areas that could see a benefit.
To encourage business owners to access this “largely untapped resource”, MP’s acknowledged the need to challenge the negative perceptions of ex-offenders in the workplace.
The head of recruitment at Virgin Trains, Kathryn Wildman, highlighted her company’s positive experience in employing ex-offenders, and put forward the case for stronger financial incentives for business owners.
“The people we have taken add value to our business,” she told the committee.
Darren Burns, recruitment ambassador for key-cutting retailer Timpson, also spoke to the committee, confirming that “the most important reason we do it is because it is good for because it is good for business”.
Research has shown that enthusiasm among business owners for employing ex-offenders remains mixed.
A recent YouGov survey, also commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, found that half of all employers wouldn’t consider hiring an offender or ex-offender. A possible lack of skills was only a factor for a third of respondents, with 40 per cent concerned about the public image of their company.
A separate study in September this year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) used the responses of HR professionals to score ex-offenders as the least employable demographic.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.