According to the UNHCR, one of the key contributors to refugee integration is meaningful employment – enabling self-sufficiency and social connections. The Government is now running three immigration schemes for people arriving in the UK from Ukraine, and this week has shed a little more light on how these tie in with access to the labour market.
The government has now published new guidance for businesses wanting to offer employment to refugees from Ukraine, but will it help to make this a smooth process?
What practical arrangements have been put in place?
The new guidance includes a link to a questionnaire into which employers can input information about vacancies they have available. This operates as a gateway to support from both the Department of Work and Pensions and the charity Refugee Employment Network (REN), which works to help refugees access work. According to the guidance, once information on the vacancy is submitted, the employer will be contacted by the DWP and the vacancies will be shared with the Job Centre Plus and with REN.
Is there any guidance for employers?
Specific guidance is limited, but employers wanting to understand more about the equivalence of professional qualifications should refer to the UK Centre for Professional Qualifications. This provides a free service to help individuals and employers understand entry to regulated professions.
The guidance does, however, link to guidelines produced in 2019 by a group of government departments and international organisations: Tapping Potential guidelines. Although this publication predates the conflict in Ukraine and does not address the new immigration schemes specifically (in particular the right to work section does not apply to people arriving from Ukraine), it does provide information and advice for employers on recruiting and employing refugees.
Discrimination laws in the UK significantly limit the extent to which employers can prioritise one nationality over another. This is something we have written more about here. The Tapping Potential guidelines refer to the “tie breaker” provisions in the Equality Act. These are part of the “positive action” provisions in the Act. They apply where two candidates are equally qualified to be recruited; and in such a case, the candidate from the under-represented group can be chosen. However, these provisions are limited in scope and potentially risky for employers to rely on.
There are, however, other measures employers could consider within the framework of the positive action provisions, for example:
- Developing work experience placements or work preparation programmes targeting or including refugees;
- Helping refugees to improve their language skills; and
- Providing progression pathways and mentoring schemes to enable refugees to develop their career.
What is the position regarding immigration status?
The guidance explains that people arriving in the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme, or the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) will be granted leave to remain in the UK for 3 years. They can live here, work here, and access benefits and public services.
Also, the Ukraine Extension Scheme was launched on 3 May, providing people with another means of extending their stay in the UK for 3 years. Employees and employers should consider the options carefully before opting to use this scheme.
Although immigration permission under the Ukraine Extension Scheme does provide the same entitlements as under the other Ukraine schemes, including the right to work, and is a free scheme, some factors to take into account include:
- Whether the employee wishes to settle in the UK – although the position may change in the future, currently the Ukraine Extension Scheme does not lead to settlement, nor does time spent in it count towards settlement in any other immigration route;
- Whether the employee wishes to be joined by dependants who do not fall within the scope of the Ukraine Extension Scheme, e.g. because they have not previously been granted UK immigration permission as a dependant of the employee; and
- Whether the employer wishes to retain the employee under a sponsored route.
For further information on the UK immigration provisions for people from Ukraine, see our separate article here.
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