Magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is to stop asking job applicants to disclose whether they have criminal records on initial application forms.

Freshfields claims to be the first firm to make the move in support of the Ban the Box campaign set up by charity Business In The Community (BITC), which aims to promote the assessment of job seekers on the basis of their abilities.

Freshfields will request information about unspent criminal convictions only once a job offer has been made, instead of asking potential employees to declare their unspent criminal convictions at the beginning of their application. 

Candidates with unspent criminal convictions will be told their record will not necessarily hinder their prospects of working for the firm. Convictions that are later disclosed will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Philip Richards, partner at Freshfields, said: ‘The Ban The Box campaign is an excellent initiative that highlights the major role businesses can play in helping ex-offenders back into work, away from homelessness and from adding to reoffending rates.’

Catherine Sermon, director at BITC, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to Freshfields for their pioneering move in banning the box.’ 

According to BITC, 9.2 million people in the UK have criminal records, with three-quarters of employers admitting that they discriminate against candidates with criminal convictions.

Sermon said that by supporting the campaign Freshfields will benefit from access a wider talent pool of applicants who might otherwise have been excluded. ‘We hope that it inspires other firms that they too can change their application process,’ she said.