This guide will support you in reviewing your recruitment practices to make sure they’re open and fair for all candidates, including those from disadvantaged groups – helping you reach the widest possible pool of talent. These include the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, care leavers, people with disabilities, homeless people or those struggling with mental health

Best Practice: General
  • Don’t automatically exclude candidates because of a gap in their work history. This can have occurred for multiple reasons and may not reflect on the candidate’s ability to the job in the present.
  • When writing job adverts, do your best to ensure that they are as accessible as possible, think about providing alternative formats and state clearly that you have an equal opportunities policy.
  • Do not include skills or entry requirements which are not vital to the job description. Doing so can exclude people unnecessarily.
  • Where possible consider potential not just previous experience. Consider offering potential-based interviews rather than just competency-based questions.
  • Alternative recruitment methods, such as work trials or placement opportunities, can appeal to the strengths of different groups and help you reach groups you would not necessarily reach otherwise.
  • Consider if you can offer flexible working patterns; for many disadvantaged groups this is vital to being able to access employment.
  • Seek specialist support; there are many local and national groups out there who can help you can gain a better understanding of the needs and challenges of those you’re trying to reach with your recruitment policy. Leeds Community Foundation can point you in the best direction based on your needs.
Best Practice: Ex-offenders
  • Firstly, some employers worry that the public may not respond well to them hiring people who have broken the law in the past, but evidence actually shows that the public warm to the idea of employers being socially responsible. Don’t forget that there are more than 10 million people in the UK with a criminal record so this isn’t a niche issue.
  • In most cases, there’s no legal obligation on you to ask candidates about criminal records, unless you’re recruiting for a role which requires you to do a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
  • ‘Ban the Box’: only ask for information on criminal convictions once a candidate has been shortlisted or a conditional offer is made. This helps you to focus on the candidate’s skills and experience.
  • Be fair and consider the context. Written information about a conviction, whether official or provided by an individual, can be difficult to put into context. So if you do have concerns and feel you might have to refuse an individual because of their criminal record, give them an opportunity to explain the surrounding circumstances in person.
  • If you do ask about convictions, make sure you’re asking the right question. For most jobs, you’re not allowed to consider convictions that are ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). You would also be acting unlawfully if you were to carry out a criminal record check at a level inappropriate to the role. Employers who do this could be charged for unlawfully processing data of a sensitive nature.
Best Practice: Care Leavers
  • Some apprenticeships require minimum education and experience requirements, which can sometimes unfairly filter out care leavers, who will have had fewer opportunities. Consider offering short-term traineeships as a way of sampling their talents and helping them acquire experience in the field.
  • Make the application process as accessible as possible. Some care leavers may struggle with the application process, having received little or no career support from their families. Lots of employers are using creative application procedures outside of the workplace, assessing personal aptitude and capacity to develop in a particular industry, rather than more formal processes.
  • Consider offering greater discretion on leave entitlement for care leavers to attend any necessary appointments with organisations that help them get on their feet. Local authorities offer care leavers support up to the age of 21 (24 if still in education). As a lot of care leavers will be younger people, offer a buddying scheme to help them grow in their roles.
Best Practice: Disabled People
  • You may be able to get help from Access to Work towards some costs where an individual requires support or adaptations. For example, this could provide funds towards special aids and equipment, a wide range of support workers and travel to and from work.
  • The Equality Act 2010 means that you must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that any disabled employees are supported and can overcome any substantial disadvantage they have at work. The average cost of these adjustments is only £75 and is often simple to implement.
  • Around 10% to 15% of the population have a hidden impairment such as autism spectrum conditions, dyspraxia or a learning disability. Do not assume someone isn’t disabled because they aren’t in a wheelchair.
  • Ask applicants if they need any adjustments to the interview process. Examples could be offering alternative interview processes, such as a working interview, or simply changing the lighting or room layout to make it more accessible.
Best Practice: Homeless People
  • Remember that homeless people will come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Lots of homeless people will have previously been in highly skilled jobs.
  • Don’t automatically sift out candidates just because they have gaps in their work histories. Gaps on CVs can be for a variety of reasons, including periods of homelessness.
  • Train line managers to understand the impact of homelessness. It can affect candidates’ self-esteem. Understanding that, and having strong support networks in place, can help candidates with histories of homelessness give you their best as employees.
  • Offer secure contracts wherever possible. Homelessness is characterised by instability, so it’s important for those who are rebuilding their lives to have enough security so they can plan for the future – and thrive at work.
Best Practice: Mental Health conditions
  • According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people experience a problem with their mental health every year. Therefore it’s highly likely you will at some point employ someone with a mental health condition.
  • Flexible working patterns, including changes to start and finish times, can be beneficial. For example this can mean people don’t need to use public transport at busy times which can cause anxiety for some people.
  • Each individual is different and reducing the stigma around mental health will allow you to get the best out your individual employees by having open conversations.
“Employment is the cornerstone of stability in our lives. It’s not just about giving one person a well-paid, rewarding job; it’s about investing in local families and communities and, in many instances, is life-changing.”
James Bailey, Hammerson, Victoria Leeds