Prisoners could be granted day release to work and train with employers earlier on in their sentence as part of latest measures announced by the government today to cut the annual £15bn cost of reoffending.

Prison governors will be given greater autonomy to release offenders from open and women's prisons on temporary licence to do paid work and improve their chance of getting a job when they have served their sentence.

The Ministry of Justice has also announced that 230 additional businesses, such as Pret A Manger, a high street sandwich shop chain, have joined the New Futures Network to hire ex-offenders. The network is part of the government's education and employment strategy, which was unveiled a year ago.

Justice secretary David Gauke said: 'Broadening access to training and work opportunities is a vital part of our strategy to steer offenders away from a life of crime and ultimately keep the public safe.

'Many organisations are recognising the value of giving offenders a second chance, and we have carefully listened to their feedback before making these changes. I urge more businesses to join this movement and help ex-offenders turn their backs on crime for good.'

Research conducted for the ministry, based on 2012 and 2013 data, shows that releasing prisoners under temporary licence reduces reoffending rates.

For those granted one temporary licence, additional licences granted in the six months prior to release were associated with 'small but statistically significant' reductions in reoffending rates. Each additional resettlement day release was associated with a 0.5% reduced reoffending odd over a one-year follow-up period. A resettlement overnight release reduced the reoffending odds by 5%.

Gauke, the son of a policeman, has been praised for the leadership shown on prisons. He said short custodial sentences should be imposed only where absolutely appropriate. Instead, more community sentences should be handed down. Earlier this month he announced that the National Probation Service would be responsible for all offender management following Chris Grayling's disastrous probation sell-off.