About those sweeteners..

On the BBC’s TalkBack show they’re currently discussing the announcement by the NIO that what they’ve described as the “conflict-related convictions” of job applicants will not able to be taken into account by potential employers, apart from in exceptional circumstances. NIO statement here. It was predicted by Alan Murray in the Sunday Life. Interestingly that prediction was that the announcement would be made on Wednesday.. but then we only saw the UVF statement yesterday.. Now, about those poisonous foundations.. Added According to the NIO statement, through the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers, it’s “voluntary guidance” covering “all employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors” and it’s to be “reviewed after 18 months.” Details of that guidance here [pdf file] And in case anyone missed the reference in the earlier post, here’s another reminder of the Secretary of State for Wales etc’s previous comments on the past.From that voluntary guidance

5 Considering Conflict-Related Convictions

5.1 In this section convictions relate to conflict-related ones.

5.2 Only after interview when the successful candidate for employment has been chosen, should the issue of a conviction, be considered.

5.3 In the case of the Northern Ireland Civil Service a criminal record check is sought after an individual is recommended for appointment. If it transpires that the individual has a record, a statement of disclosure form is issued for completion by the applicant. This provides the opportunity to put the nature of the offence/conviction in context and provide any supporting material eg, testimonials, references etc.

5.4 There are three possible scenarios once a successful candidate has been selected and a record check occurs:

• if the candidate does not possess a conviction, the appointment is made;
• if the candidate has declared a conviction, but the employer considers that it is not materially relevant to the post, the appointment is made;
• if the candidate has declared a conviction and the employer considers that it is, or could be, materially relevant, and is manifestly incompatible with the post then the appointment is not immediately offered.

5.5 In the third scenario the employer should make contact with the candidate to explain his/her decision. If the candidate accepts the employer’s consideration, the employer may move on to the next highest placed candidate.

5.6 If after explanation the candidate does not accept the employer’s consideration, it is recommended that he/she meet with the employer to discuss the issue. The candidate may bring along a representative and may supply supporting evidence in regard his/her case that the conviction is not materially relevant. The applicant should be given the opportunity to make his/her views known regarding the conviction and its relevance, or otherwise, to the post.

5.7 If, after this discussion, the employer continues to consider that the conviction is materially relevant and manifestly incompatible with the post, the candidate may bring the matter to a review panel. The review panel (the modalities of which are set out in section 6) is non statutory. It will receive complaints and concerns raised by individuals. Such complaints and also evidence of good practice will form the basis of an annual report to the Secretary of State on the operation of this voluntary tripartite arrangement.

6 Tripartite Review Panel

6.1 Only if a satisfactory outcome cannot be arrived at through informal discussion between potential employer and candidate should the next step be to refer the matter to a review panel. The panel, which will be non statutory, will comprise representatives of the three parties to this guidance.

6.2 It will be serviced by a part-time secretariat and will be tasked with considering individual complaints and also cataloguing evidence of good practice. It will be asked to provide the Secretary of State with a detailed annual report on the operation of the voluntary agreement. The operation of the guidance will be reviewed after 18 months. If there is evidence that the voluntary arrangement is demonstrably not working it is the view of the Government that the voluntary arrangement should be put on a statutory basis.

7 Tripartite Endorsement

7.1 It is the agreed view of Government, the CBI in Northern Ireland and the ICTU that this voluntary guidance, which will require detailed working through by employing organisations, represents an important step forward in the reintegration of ex prisoners with conflict-related offences.

7.2 The parties to the guidance also acknowledge that in working through this process, the onus of proving material relevance lies with the employer. Unless the employer can argue convincingly that the conviction is materially relevant and manifestly incompatible with the post, the applicant (who at this stage is, all other things being equal, the preferred candidate for the job) should be offered the post.

7.3 The three parties to this guidance are also of the view that before coming to a decision, the employer should consider carefully the following. Namely that:

• the onus of proof is on the employer to show material relevance;
• the conviction must be manifestly incompatible with the position in question;
• the seriousness of the offence is not in and of itself enough to make a conviction materially relevant; and
• it will only be in very exceptional circumstances that a conviction will be relevant.

7.4 Finally, following the recent Fair Employment Tribunal judgement in McConkey and Marks v the Simon Community the Government has initiated, as a matter of urgency, a review of fair employment legislation to consider whether there is a need to amend Article 2 (4) of the Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998 in the Tribunal words
…..to reflect those changed circumstances [in light of the Good Friday Agreement] and not least to reflect the terms of the said Agreement with its reference to the introduction of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community in the area of employment

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