Organizational Wellness

Why You Should Give Fair Chance Hiring Practices a Chance

Nov 6, 2023
Last Updated May 8, 2024

It’s estimated that between 70 and 100 million Americans have some type of criminal record. And even a minor offense, such as a misdemeanor, can create obstacles to securing employment, housing, education, and more. To help fix this problem, many federal and local governments–and even some private businesses–have adopted fair chance hiring practices. Fair chance hiring practices promote the equitable consideration of job applicants with criminal records. 

Incorporating fair chance hiring practices is about more than compliance with local and federal recommendations and laws. It's a deliberate step towards a stronger, more inclusive workforce. Let’s dive into the specifics of fair chance hiring and how incorporating these practices can help your organization tap into a previously overlooked talent pool. 


What Are Fair Chance Hiring Practices?

At its core, fair chance hiring recognizes that past mistakes should not indefinitely hinder an individual's pursuit of gainful employment. Job seekers with criminal records often face formidable barriers that hinder their path to employment. These barriers include societal stigmatization, biased perceptions, and application screening processes that put them at a disproportionate disadvantage. 

Fair chance hiring practices aim to remove these barriers and improve workplace equity. They involve measures such as delaying background checks until later in the hiring process, which gives candidates the chance to showcase their qualifications and skills before their criminal history is considered. This approach ensures candidates are evaluated based on their merits rather than their past mistakes.

The Fair Chance Hiring Act

Fair chance hiring practices must be navigated with a keen awareness of legal considerations. Many local and state governments, as well as the federal government, recommend and even mandate fair chance hiring.

For example, 37 states and over 150 cities and counties nationwide adopted the "Ban the Box" movement. “Ban the Box” advocates for the removal of the criminal history question from initial job applications. 

Other recommendations and laws, such as the “Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019”, place restrictions on when federal agencies and contractors can request a candidate’s arrest and conviction record during the recruiting process. 

Employers should consult with legal experts and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines so that fair chance hiring practices do not inadvertently violate other legal obligations.

Benefits of Fair Chance Hiring

Like we said above, it’s not all about maintaining compliance with local and federal recommendations and laws. The positive impacts of fair chance hiring radiate beyond the office walls, resonating within the community and society at large.

Benefits for Employers

Employers that embrace fair chance hiring reap manifold rewards. By tapping into a previously overlooked talent pool, fair chance hiring practices allow employers to access skilled individuals who can boost innovation and productivity. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also revealed that organizations embracing fair chance hiring reported enhanced employee retention rates, increased employee engagement, and improved overall company culture.

Fair chance hiring also increases diversity in the workforce. A McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their peers.

Several businesses report success stories after having implemented fair chance hiring. Greyston Bakery, known for its open hiring model, provides opportunities for individuals regardless of their background, including those with criminal histories. This approach has resulted in a loyal and dedicated workforce, reduced turnover, and a distinctive brand image. Similarly, Dave's Killer Bread, another pioneer in fair chance hiring, has experienced exceptional growth while aiding in community rehabilitation. Such real-world examples demonstrate the positive correlation between fair chance hiring practices and enhanced business performance.

Benefits for Employees

Fair chance hiring is not solely advantageous for employers–employees also gain considerable benefits. It offers individuals with criminal histories the chance to rebuild their lives by providing economic stability to themselves and their families. Studies indicate that gainful employment can slash recidivism rates, underscoring the pivotal role that job opportunities play in breaking the cycle of crime. 

Fair chance hiring practices also cultivate self-worth, which promotes a healthier work environment for employees of all backgrounds.

Overcoming Challenges and Misconceptions

While fair chance hiring practices hold immense potential for positive change, employers often grapple with certain challenges when adopting them. One major concern is safety and liability, where employers fear that hiring individuals with criminal records might jeopardize workplace security.

Another challenge revolves around misconceptions that hiring individuals with criminal records may disrupt workplace harmony or negatively affect productivity. However, research indicates that such concerns are unfounded. 

According to a 2022 study by Indeed, 73% of job-seekers say they would prefer to work for a company with fair-chance hiring practices. That same study revealed that 92% of workers said they would be comfortable working alongside a coworker who had a nonviolent criminal record with a single, isolated incident.

The message to employers is clear: workers value fairness, and enacting fair chance hiring practices can lead to a new sense of loyalty and engagement among all employees.

Implementing Fair Chance Hiring Practices

Integrating fair chance hiring practices into recruitment processes requires a thoughtful approach that prioritizes inclusivity and personal growth. Here are a few best practices you may want to consider for your HR strategies:

Educate Hiring Managers and the HR Team

First and foremost, educate hiring managers and HR personnel on the principles of fair chance hiring. Training should emphasize skills-based interviewing, where hiring managers focus on evaluating candidates based on their qualifications and potential contributions rather than solely on their resume. 

You can also leverage technology and partnerships to streamline the process. Specialized software, such as Checkr, can anonymize initial application stages, allowing candidates to be evaluated solely on their skills and experience.

Offer Continuing Support for All Employees

To help support fair chance workers once they become employees, consider implementing mentorship programs during the onboarding process. Pair individuals with criminal records with mentors throughout the organization to provide valuable guidance and support as new employees get up to speed. These relationships can help everyone navigate workplace challenges and foster a sense of belonging.

Measure Success and Impact

Lastly, consider tracking and measuring the success of fair chance hiring initiatives to look for areas for improvement. Set clear goals for your fair chance hiring practices and track metrics such as employee retention metrics and employee engagement metrics to help gauge the effectiveness of your program. 

Employee performance metrics are equally important. Tracking productivity, quality of work, and contributions over time can help ascertain if fair chance hires are not only fitting in but excelling within the organization.

Improving HR Offerings with Wellhub

Fair chance hiring practices advocate for equitable consideration of job seekers with criminal records, fostering inclusion and second chances. By embracing these practices, businesses contribute to safer communities while enhancing their reputations and bottom lines. 

You can also make a positive impact by offering your employees a wellbeing program that systematizes a healthy work environment. Employees are a company’s most valuable resource, and wellness programs help employers take care of them. Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist today for more tips on prioritizing employee wellbeing.

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


Our weekly newsletter is your source of education and inspiration to help you create a corporate wellness program that actually matters.

By subscribing you agree Wellhub may use the information to contact you regarding relevant products and services. Questions? See our Privacy Policy.