What’s stopping your business from hiring refugees?

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You might want to consider hiring refugees: There are over 120,000 refugees living in the UK with the legal right to work, yet only 56% of those are employed.

Employing a job seeker who’s been granted leave to remain in the UK makes a huge difference to their life, helping them provide for loved ones, integrate with their community and boost self-worth.

But hiring refugees shouldn’t only be viewed as a philanthropic act. Because businesses ultimately benefit too. Refugees overwhelmingly prove themselves as committed, highly-qualified members of the team who contribute to a richly diverse workplace. They also enhance cultural cohesion and fill skills shortages.

Unfortunately, according to ‘Engaging with employers in the hiring of refugees’, a joint report by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), HR departments are often unsure about the rules surrounding the employment of refugees.

We’ve talked about the main reasons to consider hiring a job seeker who’s a refugee, here. Now let’s outline some practical actions your business can take to help welcome a refugee into the team.

Get clear on documentation

There’s often confusion around refugees’ rights and entitlements. But it’s worth noting that when someone’s granted refugee status they’re legally able to work in the UK without any restrictions.

As an employer, you’ll still need to run pre-employment checks to prove an employee’s right to work in the UK. To provide clarity on which documents are required as evidence of refugees’ entitlement to work in this country, the Refugee Council has created a comprehensive guide for employers.

The most common documentation for a refugee is a Biometric Residence Permit. This is granted by the Home Office. It’s the size of a credit card, contains a biometric chip and lists the expiry date plus that person’s permission to work.

Learn about qualifications

Recruiting for any role, it’s important to ensure that candidates have the right qualifications to do the job well.

Although many refugees are highly educated in their country of origin, many businesses may be put off employing them. And that's just because they don’t have enough knowledge of overseas qualifications.

You can find the information you need through the UK ENIC. This is an agency that recognises and compares international qualifications and skills with their UK equivalent.

But what if documents and proof of qualifications aren’t available? After all, someone may have arrived in the UK without certificates or references from former employers.

When it’s clear you won’t be able to fully gage a candidate’s previous experience, aim to shift the focus away from qualifications and instead judge their competencies. The UNHCR/OECD ‘Engaging with employers in the hiring of refugees’ report recommends using skills profiling tools to help put refugees’ expertise into context.

Make your recruitment more accessible

The mechanics of the UK recruitment process can deter even refugees with the right skills and qualifications. Partnering with an organisation that specialises in helping people from a refugee background find work can make the process easier. There’s a list of relevant organisations in the ‘UK employers’ guide to hiring refugees’, produced by Tent/Breaking Barriers.

Given that many refugee candidates have been through traumatic experiences, it’s likely they’ll need extra support. As well as help learning English, many seek practical assistance with CVs, interview preparation and cultural understanding around UK workplace culture.

Yes, it’s clear that it could be a lot easier for businesses to recruit refugees. But a commitment to employing and investing in even one refugee candidate this year will bring huge benefits to their life - and your business.


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