Officials from The Executive Office provide the secretariat to the Ex-Prisoners' Working Group which was established primarily to consider and address the barriers facing people with conflict-related convictions in accessing employment as well as goods, facilities and services.

Ex-Prisoners' Working Group

A number of specific areas have emerged for consideration by the Group:

  • access to employment
  • access to home and contents insurance
  • barriers to international travel
  • issues relating to the ageing ex-prisoner population

This group was instrumental in the production of The Employers’ Guidance on Recruiting People with Conflict-Related Convictions which was issued in May 2007, prior to the restoration of devolution.

The Ex-Prisoners' Working Group continues to meet on a quarterly basis under the chairmanship of the Head of the Civil Service. Organisations represented on the working group include ex-prisoner groups, the CBI, trade unions, the Equality Commission and other key organisations with a remit relevant to the main issues addressed by the group.

Employers’ guidance on recruiting people with conflict-related convictions

In May 2007, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister issued voluntary guidance for employers on the recruitment of people with conflict-related convictions. This satisfied a commitment given by the British Government within the St Andrews Agreement to work with business, trade unions and ex-prisoner groups to produce guidance for employers in the private and public sectors.

The core principle of the guidance is that: "any conviction for a conflict-related offence that pre-dates the Good Friday Agreement (April 1998) should not be taken into account unless it is materially relevant to the employment being sought."

The employers’ guidance is a voluntary document designed to help employers follow best practice in recruiting people with convictions arising from the period of conflict in Northern Ireland, provided that these are in respect of activities which took place pre-April 1998. The guidance aims to reduce barriers to employment and enhance the re-integration of people with conflict-related convictions by encouraging employers to allow them to compete on an equal basis with other applicants.

Review panel

The Employers’ Guidance on Recruiting People with Conflict-Related Convictions outlined details on the formation and composition of a tripartite review panel. In its terms of reference the review panel was tasked with considering individual cases, building up evidence regarding the acceptance and adoption of the guidance, and producing a progress report on the impact of the employers’ guidance after an 18 month period.

The review panel was formally established in August 2010 with a view to producing its findings after 18 months. As stipulated within the employers’ guidance, the review panel comprised one representative from each of the parties involved in putting together the guidance, as well an independent chair.

Since its first report the review panel has continued to promote the employers’ guidance and meet on a regular basis to discuss and examine the barriers to employment and produced a second report in June 2016. Both reports are available below:

The review panel continues to exist as an entirely non-statutory/voluntary body, which can receive complaints raised by individuals. The review panel, like the employers’ guidance, is entirely voluntary in nature and therefore does not impinge on the remit of existing mechanisms such as the industrial tribunal. 

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