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Insight: Rebecca Morgan, head of HR at Johnsons Hotel Linen

The final speaker at our employer services webinar, Rebecca Morgan, head of HR at Johnsons Hotel Linen, shared her first-hand experience of ex-offender employment – and the impact it’s had on the Johnsons team.

Over half the organisations in England and Wales say they have struggled to recruit during the past year due to skills shortages – add to that the impact of Brexit and the post-Covid world and there are increased vacancies, wage inflation, and competition for labour.​

As it stands, the average cost of recruiting for a non-managerial position is £2,000 – but there’s still a significant challenge around staff retention once you have your team in place. Yet, research shows that 81% of businesses claim employing ex-offenders promotes levels of loyalty and improved staff retention.​

But why bother?

The law does not discriminate – and serving prisoners come from all backgrounds.​ Since the start of Johnsons scheme, the firm has met people from all walks of life who have had a variety of careers –including accountants, lawyers, mechanics, ex-military personnel, and business owners.​

“We’ve met offenders with convictions from murder to fraud, and theft to drug offences.​ Every case is judged on its merits – and the most important advice is to keep an open mind.” – Rebecca Morgan, head of HR at Johnsons Hotel Linen.

Johnsons recruit candidates who are released from work during the day and return to prisons in an evening. Now a popular scheme for inmates, roles are varied with some working in supervisor positions.

At the beginning of the programme, Johnsons faced some pushback from employees around why they were recruiting directly from the prison population – with many wanting to know if they, or their jobs, were going to be put at risk.

While there’s no hiding the fact that colleagues are released on temporary licence – with many arriving at the workplace in a HMP branded vehicle – Johnsons did find that colleagues’ preconceptions disappeared once they joined the payroll.

Another interesting point is that Johnsons don’t run DBS checks, and when meeting people inside the prison, asses the risk on a case-by-case basis – the company could never employ someone convicted of arson, for example, given the nature of the work and materials used.

Johnsons also works with serving prisoners, with a view to setting up facilities in the prison itself, offering an opportunity for them to earn and send money to their families while serving their sentence – as well as providing vital training ahead of their release.

But don’t just take their word for it, Rebecca ended her presentation with a particularly poignant case study from Paul, which you can read in our Webinar replay... In case you missed the event, you can catch up on the recording, here.


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