Ex-offenders need targeted training to help them plug the UK's skills gaps, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The paper "Employers and Offenders" states that low unemployment and high demand for skills meant that businesses that don't employ ex-offenders – who make up 20% of the population as a whole - could be missing out on talent.
However, it adds that the government needs to do more to ensure that programmes to help ex-offenders return to work are properly geared towards the needs of employers.
Dianah Worman, CIPD diversity adviser, said that most employers interviewed who took on ex-offenders had no complaints.
"Our research shows that only 6% of employers who have knowingly employed people with convictions have had a negative experience," she said.
"Although concerns do remain, the low level of negative experiences should act to reassure employers considering employing an ex-offender."
The report recommends:
* Training programmes should be developed on the basis of job-specific skills that are in demand in local and regional labour markets.
* Higher level skills training in areas where significant shortages of skilled labour exist should be targeted at offenders.
* Training programmes for offenders should be based on relevant research, and include procedures for:
- Carrying out assessments of need
- Working with high-risk offenders
- Engaging with employers
- Understanding the needs and requirements of local labour markets
* Clear information should be made available to employers describing the ways in which offenders are being prepared for employment. This should acknowledge employers' concerns and show how they are being addressed.
* Employers should be provided with information and training so they are able to carry out relevant criminal record checks fairly and effectively.
* Consideration should be given to providing long term funding to employers who provide ex-offender training.
* One in three adult men under the age of 30 have criminal convictions, but many of these are for relatively minor offences.
* Two-thirds of criminals sentenced to custodial sentences serve less than 12 months, out of a potential working life of 50 or more years.
* 7.3 million people (20% of the working age population) are on the Home Office Offenders Index.