Richard Branson has spoken in support of employers hiring ex-offenders:
Sir Richard Branson might not immediately spring to mind as someone prepared to stand up and champion a positive attitude towards ex-offenders. But he is actively encouraging his Virgin group of companies to employ people freshly released from prison, and even some who are still inside and working towards release. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” he says, speaking by phone from Necker Island, his private Caribbean hideaway. “A lot of people end up in there [prison] because they’ve had a lot of bad luck in their lives.”
For the last two years, one of the UK’s wealthiest and most high-profile businessmen has been suggesting to the managing directors of hundreds of Virgin companies that they take on ex-offenders. The numbers are sketchy – “It’s early days”, says Branson – but in the UK, the charity Working Chance has placed female ex-prisoners with Virgin Management. Virgin is also taking on male ex-offenders.
On the problem of disclosing a criminal record – very few people get an interview once they have ticked the criminal convictions box on a job application form – he says: “It sounds like something we should look at, perhaps we should have a clause in our applications stating that Virgin does not hold a criminal record against applicants and that, on the contrary, we will try to help where that is the case. I’d be very happy to go that far.”
I couldn’t agree with him more. Whilst there are voices very much in support or opposed to the diversity agenda, there are woefully few which speak up in support of ex-offenders/people with criminal records. As he says later in the article there is untapped potential being wasted in the British economy because so many employers rule people out arbitrarily. It’s also unfair – do we want to be a society which says you make any mistake once, and you’re excluded from employment and other vital areas of civic society for all time? It’s so helpful hearing words like this from Branson, a man who many people idolise. I’d like to hear a lot more, not just from him but from other high profile CEOs.
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