- Attitudes on hiring and working alongside workers with criminal records may be shifting as organizations recover from the pandemic, according to a pair of recent surveys conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and the Society for Human Resource Management.
- Researchers found that more than half, 53%, of HR professional respondents said they would be willing to hire individuals with criminal records, while 38% of business leaders said the same. Both measures represented increases compared to 2018 survey data, SHRM said. Similarly, 66% of HR professionals and 56% of business leaders said they would be willing to work alongside individuals with criminal records.
- The majority of both HR professionals and business leaders said workers with criminal records performed their jobs "about the same or better than" workers with no criminal records, SHRM said. About two-thirds of HR professionals said their organizations had hired individuals with criminal records, the same percentage recorded in 2018 data.
Measures of public sentiment in recent years signal a generally supportive attitude toward hiring workers with criminal records. A February survey by staffing firm Kelly Services found 64% of U.S. adults said nonviolent mistakes should not automatically disqualify a job candidate from being able to find work, and 71% said employers should eliminate or reduce discriminatory hiring policies impacting those with minor, nonviolent criminal offenses.
The pandemic has made re-entry for those with criminal histories more difficult, however, due to its impact on certain social services and support programs.
Additionally, employers continue to harbor some of the same stigma and concerns about hiring workers in this talent pool, according to SHRM. The joint NORC-SHRM survey found the most common concerns included legal liability, customer reactions and local, state and federal regulations that complicate hiring such workers.
"Businesses can't afford to ignore this key talent pool—who in fact, make hardworking and loyal employees," Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM's president and CEO, said in a statement accompanying the organization's announcement of the survey data.
Some employers have had some success hiring formerly incarcerated workers by getting these workers acclimated to business environments and receiving support from executives. Others, like Dave's Killer Bread, have encouraged their peers to adopt "second chance hiring" policies that encourage those with criminal records to apply and assist them in their transition into the workplace.
Meanwhile, state and local governments have enacted legislation banning certain sections of employment applications that ask applicants to disclose whether they have a criminal history, otherwise known as "ban-the-box" laws. In March, Illinois enacted a law prohibiting employers from taking adverse employment actions based on workers' criminal records in certain situations.