Two Ukrainian passports with a golden trident symbol on a blue background. Biomedical Ukraine passport id. Copy space

Employing Ukrainian refugees in the UK

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began just over one month ago, more than 3.8 million Ukrainians have fled to seek refuge in other countries. Many refugees have entered bordering EU countries such as Poland, Moldova or Romania, however there are also many who will be entering the UK using either visas from the Ukrainian Family Scheme, or through sponsorship via the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The latest Home Office figures (as of 24/03/22) show that there are over 26,000 visa applications confirmed for processing, with 18,600 issued successfully already.

Employers such as Marks & Spencer, Asos, PWC and Lush have joined a coalition of 40 businesses opening their doors to offer up to 10,000 jobs to Ukrainian refugees alongside language training and suitable accommodation. Many more employers are looking to offer their support, but what do employers need to be aware of, when doing so?

Right to Work checks

According to the guidance, those on the Ukraine Family Scheme Visa or those who are sponsored under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, will receive an official permission letter from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI), as long as they hold a valid Ukrainian international passport, which permits them to travel to the UK.

On arrival at the UK border, they will receive a 6-month entry stamp inside their passport. This stamp will be 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 be able to accept this stamp as proof and would need a copy of it, (plus the photo page) to officially verify right to work.

As the stamp is time-limited for 6 months, a follow-up check will need to be carried out before it expires. By this time the individual should have submitted an application for (and received) a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If the application is not yet resolved, 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 (reminder that Biometric Residence Permits are no longer acceptable as proof from 6th April 2022). As the visa is valid for three years, a further follow-up check would be required before it expires.

Applicants to the two visa schemes who do not hold a valid passport are still able to apply, albeit through a lengthier process. Instead of an official permission letter and passport stamp, the Home Office have advised that they will immediately receive a Biometric Residence Permit, and so can demonstrate their right to work with that (until 6th April 2022), or the online right to work check service.

Chetal Patel, immigration partner at Bates Wells law firm advises employers to keep a close eye on guidance released by the Home Office, who may update right to work guidance and employer checklists further, in the wake of the new and amended routes for Ukrainian refugees. Patel also reminds employers that right to work checks must be conducted as they would be with any other employee, “otherwise they could face civil and criminal penalties.” Due to the temporary nature of the new visas, Patel advises that firms “will need to conduct follow-up checks shortly before the visa expires,” suggesting that employers may need to diarise visa expiry dates and implement regular reminders to avoid any potential lapses resulting in fines.

Nicola Inge, employment and skills director at Business in the Community (BITC) has offered general advice to think about when employing Ukrainian refugees:

“Above all, employers need to understand that they should handle the situation with care and empathy, as refugees may face barriers including low confidence and past trauma…But by stepping up to train and employ refugees, employers will change lives for the better while addressing a business-critical issue in a very tight labour market.”

Other pre-employment checks

Other pre-employment checks

Due to the unquantifiable nature of the situation in Ukraine, normal pre-employment checks such as criminality, activity history, qualification verification or referencing may not be possible, as former employers, official bodies or education institutes are unlikely to respond to any requests for information. As the situation appears to be worsening, integrity checks in Ukraine may not be available for some time, and this should be taken into account as a potential risk.

There are some checks however, that currently remain unaffected and can provide a useful alternative for some roles.

Social and adverse media checks

Due to the information being entirely open source (publicly available) on the internet, these checks are unaffected by the situation and can provide a useful indication of a candidate’s integrity, depending on the role they will be going into. Although Russia and Belarus have shut down some western social media sites locally, this does not stop candidate’s public profiles from being viewed.

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