Call for businesses to remove the Criminal Convictions Tick Box as Ban the Box launches in Northern Ireland

Business in the Community – The Responsible Business Network – has announced the launch of its Ban the Box campaign in Northern Ireland. Across the UK, businesses have already made the change needed to their recruitment practices, with employers collectively opening up over one million roles to jobseekers with criminal convictions, giving them a fair chance at securing a position which suits their skills.

Sara Neilson, Ban the Box Programme Manager in Northern Ireland explains: “Ban the Box urges businesses to remove the criminal convictions tick box from their application forms, although businesses can still ask about convictions later in the process if appropriate. Reoffending is costing taxpayers, businesses and communities millions of pounds*. But when those with criminal convictions are in work, they are 29% less likely to reoffend**.”

Banning the box works for business too. For those employers who’ve already started the process, 35% of them believe that being part of the campaign has solved skills shortages in their businesses, a third shared that being part of this initiative has helped retain or win new contracts and 74% found that commitment to the campaign has benefited their reputation (BITC, 2021).

Ms Neilson adds: “Stepping up to Ban the Box to find your next recruit isn’t about ticking a box, it’s about considering people with the right skills and experience, and not judging them on past mistakes. It’s about extending the opportunity to work with a wider talent pool. These people could diversify the workforce and provide a huge return on a company’s investment – but they need to be given a second chance.”

Ban the Box is supported in Northern Ireland by leading companies including Northstone NI Ltd, Foyle Food Group, Gilbert Ash, NIACRO, and by the Department of Justice.

Justice Minister, Naomi Long endorsed the Ban the Box campaign contributing: “I recognise that employment, particularly upon release from custody, is a key component of an individual’s journey away from reoffending. Put yourself in the shoes of a person who is unemployed with a previous conviction and imagine how paid employment could make a difference to not only them but to their families and wider communities. A reduction in reoffending also means fewer victims and a safer community within which to live, and Ban the Box is an important piece of that jigsaw.”

Joanne Lennox from Northstone and Chair of the Ban the Box campaign in Northern Ireland said: “We believe that by banning the box we are allowing first impressions to be made based on skills, experience, talent and potential. We want to ensure people with convictions have a fair chance at gaining employment. We have removed the tick box from the initial job application form that asks about criminal convictions and we provide an open and non-judgmental opportunity to have this conversation in an honest way later in the recruitment process. We are pleased to be part of the roll out of Ban the Box in Northern Ireland.”

An anonymous beneficiary shared their experience saying: “My offence happened because of complicated personal circumstances and there’s never space to explain on an application form. I have applied for so many jobs and never heard back. I know my qualifications are good, so I know that it’s because I’ve had to tick the box. When I applied for my current job, I really appreciated the fact that I was not asked about criminal convictions straight away.”

If your business would like to know more about Ban the Box or access the new toolkit, please visit Ban the Box: Giving people with convictions a chance (

  • *Reoffending cost to the UK economy – £18.1 billion annually (Ministry of Justice, 2019)
  • **If an ex-offender secures employment, they are 29% less likely to re-offend compared to 59% if they are unemployed. (Prison Reform Trust 2019)
  • For all court cases in NI in 2019, only 12.9% resulted in a custodial sentence and 54.1% resulted in monetary penalties; 42.1% were for motoring offenses and 82% of convictions were male.