CIOB report reveals construction industry’s reluctance to recruit people with criminal convictions

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is urging construction companies to dent the industry skills crisis by recruiting from an untapped labour market.

CIOB’s latest research report shows negative stigma and fears over employee safety are blocking many people with criminal records from getting a second chance by taking up a career in construction.

Its survey revealed just 25 per cent of construction managers would consider hiring a person with an unspent criminal conviction, while 32 per cent said they would not and 43 per cent stated they were unsure.

Niamh Evans, Policy and Public Affairs Officer North at CIOB says construction companies that overlook people with criminal records should reconsider their stance and look to adopt a more inclusive approach to recruitment. She also urged the Government to assist in breaking down barriers by making access to high-quality training more accessible.

“Construction companies across the UK are facing a labour shortage and there is an untapped market of potential candidates waiting to be unearthed,” said Niamh.

“However, negative stigma in some cases and a lack of access to proper training means there are many people missing out on a second chance at life.

“Companies can proactively show they are willing to consider applicants with a criminal record by making this known on their website and teaming up with organisations that support people with criminal convictions to find work.

“While there are some training opportunities available for people with criminal convictions, we would like to see improved access to give more candidates a chance to develop their skills ahead of a rewarding career in construction. The report contains several recommendations which we will follow up within the industry and with Government departments.”

Statistics show nearly 75 per cent of people leaving prison are still without work six months after their release. CIOB says breaking down barriers would lower unemployment amongst people with criminal convictions.

Meanwhile, the Government estimates the current cost of re-offending is approximately £18 billion per year.

More than 12 million people in the UK currently have a criminal record with hundreds of thousands of convictions remaining unspent – so candidates must declare their convictions when applying for a job.

Some survey respondents said they would not hire someone with an unspent conviction due to the lack of trust in an individual’s behaviour and concerns over existing employees’ safety, particularly in a high-risk environment like a construction site.

Despite this CIOB’s report highlights how some construction companies have already enjoyed success through hiring people with criminal convictions and specifically showcases how one large construction company and one SME are being proactive in this area.

Benoit Firmin, Social Value Manager at Wates Group Limited, said recruiting people with a criminal record can ease the skills burden on the industry and reduce the chances of people reoffending.

Benoit added: “At Wates, we are committed to creating opportunities for people from all backgrounds so we can benefit from the diversity of talent, skills and experience the country has to offer.

“Part of this includes our work to employ people with a criminal record. Providing opportunities to people with criminal records is necessary to promote rehabilitation and reduce reoffending. When done safely and fairly, employing people with criminal records is proven to have significant benefits for employers, individuals and society.

“As a responsible employer, we seek to play our part. We have been successful in attracting, recruiting and retaining employees with criminal records, providing them with an opportunity to turn their lives around. They have added value to the business and positively contributed to our work by way of using their skills and expertise to support us both in delivering projects and in achieving social value objectives.”

Another company which has enjoyed success by hiring people with criminal convictions is Williams Homes, based in Bala, Wales, which has taken on several recruits through its work with HMP Berwyn.

Owain Williams, joint managing director, added: “Our initiative to provide work experience and training to individuals in our local prison has been incredibly successful. We have gained loyal workers and we have been able to tailor our supply chain to meet the company’s needs, whilst giving back to the community.

“Everyone working in the prison academy and on site through temporary release receives a high standard of training. Our colleagues and clients have all supported and embraced the project as it allows us to make an immense difference to the lives of people leaving custody by broadening their career opportunities.

“As we have had such a positive experience with this initiative, we are now exploring how to scale up this work and employ more people following their release from prison.”

It is estimated 225,000 additional construction workers will be needed to meet demand by 2027, according to data from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

Demand for construction work is likely to increase in the years ahead with significant plans for the regeneration of the built environment in the UK, particularly with the Government’s flagship levelling up agenda and political focus on delivering a faster rate of housebuilding.

CIOB obtained its data through a survey of more than 130 construction companies across the UK.

To read the report in full, visit: