Restrict employers' right to ask for job seekers' criminal history

Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore on March 9, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Employers who check the criminal records of job applicants may reduce the chances of former offenders' successful reintegration into society ("Society must free ex-offenders from 'second prison' " by Mr Nicholas Matthew Goh; July 15).

There should be regulations against this.

Employers should have the right to request a candidate's criminal record only in certain cases, such as if the job requires a candidate to be responsible for large sums of money or sensitive information, or involves working with children, the disabled or the elderly.

Other jobs do not require such a background check.

Allowing companies to deny a person employment based solely on his criminal record is bad for society.

When former offenders have a hard time finding a job after being released, they can end up in poverty and return to a life of crime, raising the recidivism rate and crime rate in society.

There are different types of crime and different reasons for them. A person may not be a thug, but just encountered the wrong circumstances.

Rejecting a former offender outright, without any discussion of mitigating circumstances or what led to that particular crime means that a potential job is lost, regardless of whether it is deserved.

Criminals deserve to be punished - but that punishment should be determined by judges, not employers.

When former offenders are released, society has an interest in them not committing more crimes.

Criminality isn't usually an innate part of someone, but caused by a confluence of circumstances.

When someone feels he is part of an underclass that is systematically discriminated against, he is less likely to feel beholden to the laws of the society.

Francis Cheng

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline Restrict employers' right to ask for job seekers' criminal history. Subscribe