True Diversity feat. Myrtos

Meet Esther Champion, founder of Myrtos Consultancy, Myrtos believe that everyone should be given a fair chance to work, grow, and thrive, regardless of their past. Through workshops and educational initiatives, Esther challenges misconceptions surrounding individuals with criminal records, advocating for their employment opportunities.

Here she sheds light on the societal impact of inclusive hiring practices and the potential for positive change within communities and businesses alike.

Let’s start with the need for Diversity and Inclusion, what’s your take – why is it so important?

There is so much we can learn from people who have different backgrounds from ourselves, or whose minds think differently. Imagine how boring life would be if we only socialised with, or spoke to, people who were the same as us. Diversity gives us the opportunity to grow, to learn, and to challenge our way of thinking, which can only be a good thing.

Can you share a little bit more about what you do – what’s the purpose and mission of your initiative/ programme/ organisation?

I run workshops for businesses and organisations on criminal justice to raise awareness of the system, how it works, and how it impacts those who have been or who are in it. I educate and empower businesses and organisations to be more confident when it comes to hiring and supporting people who have a criminal record in their workplace. I then connect them with organisations who can help them recruit people who have a criminal record, either directly from prison or from the community, saving that company recruitment costs.

I also run workshops to enable people to confront their bias and misconceptions when thinking about people who have a criminal record. I provide advice and support to enable businesses and organisations to update their recruitment policies, recruitment process, onboarding process, and explore how inclusive their workplace is.

Finally, I can support businesses if they have an employee who has entered into the criminal justice system, and empower them to navigate that situation.

My purpose and mission is to challenge and change people’s perceptions towards people who have been, or who are in, the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to their ability to work and the types of jobs they can do. There is a misconception that people who are in prison, or who have been in prison, are unmotivated, uneducated, and can only do low level jobs, but this isn’t true. Some are highly educated and have degrees, others didn’t complete formal education, but are still incredibly bright and would be an asset to any company. We need to remember that there are educational courses and work opportunities in prison, so people aren’t necessarily sat idle; they are learning, growing, and developing.

Employment is one of the biggest factors in reducing re-offending, yet only 17% of prison leavers manage to get a job within a year of release. Currently, the approximated social and economic cost of reoffending each year, dominated by unemployed people with a conviction is £18 billion, yet 90% of surveyed businesses who employ prison leavers have reported that they are motivated, trustworthy and have good attendance. I believe that there is a job in every company that would suit someone who has a criminal record because people who have committed a crime come from all walks of life.

Lastly, the majority of people who have a criminal record want to make positive changes to their lives. Giving them a job is one way of making this happen.

What do you consider potential consequences of a lack of Diversity and Inclusion and what do you see as the main benefits of an inclusive workforce?

I think the consequences are that we get stuck in one way of thinking and are at risk of becoming narrow minded. We can lack creativity, be confined to a limited skill set and can stay stuck in one place, rather than grow. I’ve had to learn that doing something differently doesn’t make it wrong.

In terms of benefits, well there are many! Having a diverse workforce gives access to brilliant minds, brings creativity, and can increase your businesses reputation. Specific benefits to hiring people who have a criminal background are that you will have employees who are motivated, who are loyal, who are willing to learn, and who have numerous transferable skills.

You will have an opportunity to contribute to reducing reoffending and enabling communities to be safer as a result. Less money will be spent on sending people to prison for re-offending (it currently costs approximately £47,000 per prison place per year, not including health and education) and therefore more money could be available for the NHS, Education, mental health services, etc.

Employing people who have a criminal record provides them with a sense of purpose, an opportunity for them to contribute positively to society, and will address skills shortages.

How can businesses and potential employers get involved with your initiative/ programme/ organisation?

I would encourage businesses to come on one of the workshops I run so that they can learn more about criminal justice, and hopefully be more open to hiring someone who has a criminal record. I’m always up for a chat, so people can contact me to discuss what misconceptions/fears they might have about hiring someone with a conviction, or what training might suit their business best. It’s important that employers have a policy on recruiting people who have a criminal conviction, and take some time to consider how inclusive their onboarding processes and workplaces really are.

I would also encourage those hiring others to really seek to understand people’s skills and talents before looking at their background, or simply focusing on their knowledge of previous work history. If you do need to know whether someone has a criminal record, are you willing to do this at interview or even at job offer, rather than at application stage?

You can find out more about Mrytos Consultancy and their work, here.

If you are a brand or company that proactively champions diversity and would like to be featured as part of the “True Diversity” series please get in touch with Tony.

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Tony Allen