How can employers support Ukrainian refugees, and what considerations must they make?
Posted 26/05/2022 : By: Kathryn Knight
Home Office data suggests more than 53,000 Ukrainian refugees have already travelled to the UK under family and sponsorship schemes.
There have been more than 43,000 applications for visas under the Ukraine Family Scheme and almost 90,000 applications for visas under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme.
Both schemes allow successful applicants to be granted a visa for up to three years under the terms of which they can live and take up employment in the UK. They can also access healthcare, public funds, employment and other support.
Employers across the UK are looking to offer their support, but what do employers need to be aware of?
1. What are the two immigration schemes available to Ukrainian refugees?
The Family Scheme
The Ukraine Family Scheme allows Ukrainians and their immediate family to join family members in the UK. To be eligible, they must have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022 and they must have a family member who is:
- a British citizen
- an individual with settled status in the UK
- a European individual with pre-settled status
- someone with refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK.
Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine Scheme)
The Homes for Ukraine Scheme was launched on Friday 18 March 2022. The scheme allows Ukrainians, and their immediate family members, to be sponsored in the UK by individuals or organisations who can offer them a suitable home or room (rent-free) for at least six months.
2. What about those who are not eligible under either scheme?
Ukrainian nationals who are not eligible under either scheme and relying solely on a job offer to come to the UK will need to apply for a visa under the usual immigration process and satisfy the requirements of that route (i.e. for the skilled route: a job offer from an approved UK employer, an eligible job, the salary threshold for that role and English language requirement).
3. How can employers offer jobs to Ukrainian refugees?
Employers can offer full-time, part-time or voluntary work to people arriving from Ukraine under the Family Scheme or the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, subject to carrying out right to work checks.
Employers can email offers of work to email@example.com, including details such as their company name and contact details, number of roles available, location, job description, qualifications and any support being offered. 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 the Refugee Employment Network (REN). Find out more here: Guidance for Businesses offering work to Ukraine Refugees
4. When employing a Ukrainian refugee, are there any differences to the usual Right to Work checks?
It is important to know the difference between an asylum seeker and refugee. An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country of residence due to fear of persecution or human rights abuses and has made a claim for asylum in another country. An asylum seeker does not have the right to work in the UK until they have been granted refugee status, or they have been granted permission to work pending a decision on their claim for asylum. A refugee is someone who has made a successful asylum claim in the UK which allows them permission to work, study and bring dependent family members into the UK.
Ukrainian refugees who are successful under the Family Scheme or the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme will have received an official permission letter from UK Visas & Immigration if they hold a valid Ukrainian passport which permits them to travel to the UK.
On arrival at the UK border, they will receive a six-month entry stamp inside their passport. This stamp is evidence of their right to work in the UK (coming under the category of “a valid passport endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to work in the UK” in the list of acceptable documents). An employer would need a copy of it, in addition to the photo page, to officially verify the right to work.
Employers will need to carry out a follow-up check prior to the six-month expiry. By this stage, the individual should have submitted an application for - and received - a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If the application is delayed, an Employer Checking Service check can be conducted for further temporary confirmation.
If the application has resolved and they have received their BRP, an online right to work check using the share code service can be done for longer-term verification. Please note, BRPs are no longer acceptable as proof from 6 April 2022.
As the visa is valid for three years, employers would need to carry out a further follow-up check before the visa expires.
Ukrainian refugees who do not hold a valid passport will need to attend an appointment at a visa application centre in order to meet the eligibility requirements of the schemes. As this is a lengthier process, instead of an official permission letter and passport stamp, they will receive a BRP immediately and will be able to prove their right to work via the online check service.
5. What kind of work can employers offer?
There are no specific requirements in relation to the kind of work individuals eligible under the schemes can take up once they are granted a visa.
6. What employment rights are Ukrainian nationals entitled to in the UK?
People arriving from Ukraine are entitled to the same employment rights as everyone else in the UK. Employment rights and employer’s responsibilities are determined by the employment status of the worker e.g. worker, employee, contractor. Therefore, employers who are offering employment opportunities must ensure they understand these rights.
7. How can employers support employees hosting Ukrainian refugees?
Employees hosting Ukrainian refugees will experience a significant upheaval and will likely need time to adjust and support their new arrivals. Employers wanting to support employees in this may consider agreeing to reduced hours or remote working on a temporary basis, or grant additional paid or unpaid time off.
Unpaid or paid leave
If a period of paid or unpaid leave is agreed, employers should ask employees to put their request in writing. It’s at the employer’s discretion as to whether it is possible to accommodate the request. There is no legal obligation to agree. Where employers allow paid or unpaid time off, it’s a good idea to have a policy in place to ensure all requests are dealt with fairly.
Flexible working requests
Employers may also offer support to employees by allowing them to make changes to their working hours on a temporary basis. Employees can make requests either informally (if the organisation allows) or through a formal flexible working request, subject to meeting eligibility requirements. It will be for the employer to decide whether they are able to accommodate the request.
It is possible that the refugee could count as a ‘dependent’ under the emergency time off for dependents legislation definition: “a person who lives in the same household as the employee, otherwise than by reason of being his employee, tenant, lodger or boarder.” Under the legislation, the employee is entitled to unpaid leave to deal with an emergency involving a dependent such as:
- to provide assistance on an occasion when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted
- to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured
- in consequence of the death of a dependant.
Employers should take all requests seriously and consider the positive effects of supporting employees with these requests. Aside from the obvious moral case, generally speaking, people tend to return helpful behaviours and positive attitudes. When employees feel valued by an organisation, they work better and are more likely to be committed to the organisation. Research also suggests that they are also likely to respond positively to an employer who takes an ethical stand on issues.
We Can Help You
If you are thinking about offering support and need specific advice or would like further information, please contact a member of the Ashtons HR Consulting through this website or by calling 0330 222 0989.
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