Is forgiveness important in business and are companies prepared to provide jobs to people who have committed and paid for their crimes? Stuart Graham put this question to two respected chief executives to get an employers’ perspective as Heartlines, ambulance a campaign to spark discussion about values, search gathers steam.

Ex-convicts who are honest about their past mistakes can find work, but a clean track record it seems, remains imperative for those who hope to work in a mainstream company.

Grenville Wilson, chief executive of Logical Options, a company focused on training, recruitment and consulting, believes there is no reason why people “who stepped out of line” should not find work provided they are honest and do not try to hide the past.
“When I was younger I saw everything in black and white,” he says. “Now I believe every case should be considered on its merits. I read somewhere that there is no such thing as a bad or a good person, only a good or bad deed.”

“While once I felt little forgiveness, I have come to see that a person who has been guilty of a crime may not have been tempted to step out of line had the situation been different.”

He says if anyone in his own firm were to be accused of an indiscretion, he would check first to see if he/she had been properly ‘performance managed’. Lax management often led to the bending of rules which, in turn, could become a habit.

“If after the proper procedures were followed and the person was found guilty of a dismissible offence, he/she would be asked to leave,” he says.

While Wilson may adopt a zero tolerance attitude within his own company where the rules are known, he is more forgiving of people who have taken responsibility for their acts and are honest about their past.

“Again, I would look at the merits of the case,” he says. “For instance a wealthy man may forget to pay his maintenance and have to spend a night in jail. Provided the matter is sorted out, I would not hold that against him. On the other hand, I would not put anyone with a gambling problem in a position where it would be possible to commit fraud.”

Wilson believes many companies are not strict enough about checking CVs, many of which make false claims. Even telephone references are sometimes forged.

“Financial houses and banks impose very strict criteria before appointing anyone to their staff,” he says.

“I believe it is possible to employ anyone who is honest about his or her background. However, this rule is not always applied in some companies. Problems start when certain regulations have been laid down and inexperienced managers take these as the letter of the law instead of doing all the necessary reference checks and using their initiative.

“When someone has stepped out of line in the past it is necessary to be more careful. But there is no reason why, if he or she has the necessary skills and circumstances permit, a second chance should be denied.”

Keith Rankin, chief executive officer of Avis Car Rentals, would look at each case separately.

“We may be willing to overlook a crime where the person has been convicted for being in possession of drugs while a student, or someone has been caught for drunken driving, provided these have been one-off convictions,” he says. “After all, how many people haven’t experimented with drugs as youngsters, and who hasn’t driven a vehicle after consuming more than the legal limit of two beers? These are criminal offences, but the unlucky ones get caught.”

Because he sees the staff – and shareholders -– of Avis as part of a large family, he admits he would be unlikely to employ anyone found guilty of rape, murder or fraud. The risk would be too great.

He sees, as his first responsibility, the people he has employed and would not willingly expose them to a hardcore criminal who might revert to his old habits.

In the same way, he takes seriously his responsibility to shareholders and would not willingly give a job to just anyone with a criminal record. In the final analysis, the responsibility ¬– not the company – is his.

“You might say we will forgive but we cannot forget,” he said. – Heartlines Features.

Written by Heartlines

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