Veolia, the rubbish collection and road sweeping company, has vowed to ensure that 10% of new recruits come from marginalised groups – including army veterans, ex-offenders, long-term unemployed and the homeless.
The French-owned outsourcing company employs 14,000 people in the UK and operates water, waste management and energy services for local councils across the country, covering half the UK’s population.
The company defines marginalised groups as former military personnel, ex-offenders, NEETs (not in education, employment or training), the long-term unemployed and the homeless.
Crisis, a charity that offers on-the-job training for homeless people and ex-offenders in its cafes and shops, says lack of work is both a major cause and consequence of homelessness. Its chief executive, Jon Sparkes, added: “We know 97% of homeless people want a job, they just need the right support, and Veolia’s commitment to realise their potential is a good step in the right direction.”
The firm used to be part of French media conglomerate Vivendi, and traces its history back to a company founded in 1853 by an imperial decree of Napoleon III to supply water to the public in Lyon.
Other companies also hire disadvantaged people but without setting targets. Marks & Spencer runs a four-week employability programme called Marks & Start for single parents, people with disabilities and the homeless, providing pre-employment training as well as work experience placements. It includes a scheme for young people run in partnership with the Prince’s Trust to teach them interview and telephone skills.
More than 15,000 people, including former members of the armed services and ex-offenders, have participated in the Marks & Start programme since 2004 and about half of them found work within three months – with the retailer or other companies.
Timpson – the shoe repairs, key-cutting and dry-cleaning chain – has been hiring ex-offenders and people from other marginalised groups for some time. It says on its website: “We recruit exclusively on personality and expect all of our colleagues to be happy, confident and chatty individuals.”
Sir Richard Branson has championed the employment of ex-offenders, encouraging his Virgin group of companies to hire people just out of prison, and some who are still inside but close to being released.
The charity Working Chance, which provides training and helps female ex-offenders to find work, has placed six women with Virgin Trains and Branson’s water purifier firm, Virgin Pure, mainly in customer services roles.
The charity has also helped people find jobs in the NHS, the law firm Freshfields, the frozen food firm Cook and placed someone in a Conservative MP’s office. Working Chance was set up in 2009 by Jocelyn Hillman, who used to support women in Holloway prison preparing for job interviews.