How hard is it to get an entry-level job with a criminal record?
When people think about record checks, they think about positions like teacher, nurse and social worker. Many people don’t think about how pervasive record checks affect those who are simply trying to get by with modest wages.
Currently, a person with a criminal record must wait five years to apply for Record Suspension if they have a summary conviction and ten years if they have an indictable conviction.
In the meantime, it’s very difficult for the individual to find work. Some examples of jobs currently being advertised in Canada include:
- Call centre operator
- Consultant at an illegal medicinal cannabis dispensary
- General labourer in a warehouse
- Window and Gutter Cleaner
- Hardware store clerk
All of these entry-level jobs have one thing in common: they require a criminal record check.
Why is it hard to get an entry-level job with a criminal record?
Although employers are encouraged to ensure that they don’t take into consideration records that are unrelated to the position, it’s easy to see how an employer can draw a connection. A call-centre representative needs to take down credit card numbers and personal details about customers. A window cleaner has access to the client’s property. Even if the record is not related, for example, the candidate has a DUI conviction, the employer may not call an applicant back if he or she has a record. As well, job applicants may be too intimidated to apply knowing that there are likely many applicants for most entry-level jobs and they will be at a substantial disadvantage.
In most cases, the law only protects people who have obtained a pardon or Record Suspension. In some cases, it can also protect people with unrelated records, but the job applicant would have to prove that the record was the reason he or she was not hired. In an entry-level role, the applicant is likely up against a dozen or more applicants with similar qualifications. The candidate would have no way to know how their qualifications stacked up against the chosen person’s resume.
The second obstacle people seeking entry-level positions face is the fee to apply for a pardon. In 2012, the federal government increased the fee from $150 to $631, which is extremely difficult for a person with a limited income to afford.
A criminal record can prevent a person in Canada from even getting their foot in the door. The longer the person needs to wait for relief, the more discouraged they will become. On the other hand, steady income and the opportunity to contribute can help reduce recidivism and help people with criminal records get back on track.
This is why Lift the Burden is asking the Government of Canada to roll back wait times and make applications free. The social benefit of getting people back on track outweighs the potential risk of giving someone a second chance.
If you agree that Record Suspensions are important for the rehabilitation of people with criminal records in Canada, please consider signing our petition.