From the war in Ukraine, to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, global events are forcing more and more people to flee their countries in search of safety.
Businesses increasingly want to play their part in supporting those fleeing the crisis in Ukraine, either by sponsoring individuals to come to the UK, offering jobs once they arrive, or making donations to charity. In response to the crisis the Government has implemented the Ukraine Family Scheme, Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) and Ukrainian Extension Scheme, all of which allow Ukrainian nationals to come and work in the UK for a period of time.
For those businesses who want to offer support to Ukrainians by offering them employment, it is important for employers to be properly prepared before doing so.
Right to work in the UK
Employers must ensure that all their employees have the right to work in the UK, and Ukrainian nationals are no exception.
The Government has already implemented the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine). The Ukrainian Extension Scheme is due to come into force on 03 May 2022, which permits those with an existing visa to either extend their visa or switch to a different immigration route.
All of these schemes give a Ukrainian national the right to work in the UK for the duration of their stay without the need for their employer to sponsor their visa. This means they are not limited to securing employment with employers who hold a Home Office issued sponsor licence.
An important note is that whilst Ukrainian nationals have the right to work in the UK for the duration of their stay, this right to work in the UK is for a specific period rather than being an ongoing right. As such, Employers should incorporate steps into their right to work processes to ensure that individuals are not employed after their visas have expired, as this will be unlawful.
These schemes have been devised by the Government quickly in response to the evolving crisis, and the number of visas issued under the schemes will hopefully be scaled up in the coming weeks. The immigration rules and guidance being issued by the Government is being regularly updated in response to a changing situation. Employers should therefore ensure that they obtain up to date right to work information at the point of employing a Ukrainian national.
Employers who hold a valid sponsorship licence issued by the Home Office, they will be familiar with assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to overseas workers. It will still be possible for employers who hold a Home Office sponsor licence to sponsor Ukrainians to work for them under the Skilled Worker route in the usual way. However, the vacancy has to be genuine and there are minimum skills and salary requirements that apply to this route. In addition, family members require a separate dependant visa to accompany the main work visa applicant, and as Ukraine is under martial law, many male applicants aged 18 to 60 are unable to leave the country. Realistically this route will be of limited use in supporting refugees, as there are more obstacles for both the individual and the employer which will take time to overcome.
Sponsoring a Ukrainian national:
Under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine), both individuals and organisations can sponsor a Ukrainian national to come to the UK. Organisations are able to sponsor an individual where they can provide suitable accommodation for at least a 6 month period, and can provide support to help the individual adapt to life in the UK.
As both individuals and organisations can sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, organisations are not obligated to also offer jobs to the individuals they sponsor. The Government has not issued any guidance specifically tailored to organisations sponsoring individuals under the scheme, but it is anticipated that such guidance will be produced as things progress.
The recruitment process:
Employers can share their job vacancies with the Home Office, who will provide a platform to assist Ukrainian nationals in finding employment once they have arrived in the UK.
Employers must ensure that their recruitment processes are not discriminative. Showing preferential treatment to Ukrainian applicants over applicants from other countries, will on the face of it be discriminative, no matter how well intentioned an employer might have been in favouring Ukrainian applicants.
Employers should also ensure that they advertise their job vacancies fairly using their usual recruitment process. Advertising a vacancy only through the Home Office is on the face of it indirectly discriminative in that non-Ukrainian people would be less likely to apply.
If your organisation wishes to offer support to Ukrainian nationals by offering them employment and you would like more detailed advice on this, please contact Chris Cuckney.