The UK Government has provided guidance for UK businesses employing Ukrainian nationals who have fled their country.
In this guide for employers, we detail the rules you’ll need to follow when hiring Ukrainian refugees. This includes completion of vacancy information questionnaires, the process to be followed when offering work to Ukrainian refugees, clarification of Ukrainian immigration status in the UK, the importance of right to work checks and record-keeping as an employer, and recognition of a prospective employee’s overseas qualifications.
Vacancy information questionnaires
As a UK-based business offering work to Ukrainian refugees, you’ll first be required to complete a ‘vacancy information questionnaire’ so that the government can understand more about your job offer(s). The new guidance includes a link to the questionnaire into which employers can input information about vacancies they have available. This then operates as a gateway to support from both the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Refugee Employment Network (REN), a charity which works to help refugees access work.
You’ll need to fill in this form with the information you currently have about available roles within your organisation that you can offer to people from the Ukraine. This can include full-time jobs, part-time jobs or even voluntary work. While more is learnt about the needs and preferences of people arriving in the UK from Ukraine, the DWP is currently open to employment opportunities in all sectors and across the country.
You’ll be asked to input all of the following information:
- the name of your organisation and its’ contact details
- the number of vacancies available, including whether this is an exact or estimated figure
- the types of vacancies on offer, for example, sales or administration
job descriptions and contracted hours
- salary or hourly rate of pay
- any experience or qualifications required
- detail about the application process and how to apply, with closing dates for applications
- whether an individual could be transferred to another site in your organisation if they move
- whether you’re recruiting nationally across several locations, or a single location, with the names of the towns or cities and postcodes, if you know them
- what level of English language is required for the job role
- whether a driving licence is needed for the job role
- if the job involves driving, whether you will provide transport
- what additional support you offer, like on-site accommodation or English language lessons
- whether you need to check with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if a prospective employee
- applying has a criminal record
- how the vacancies are currently advertised, for example, on Find a Job, through employment agencies and/or on your website
- anything else relevant to the vacancies that you’re able to offer to a Ukrainian refugee.
You’ll also need to confirm permission for the DWP to share the information contained within your vacancy information questionnaire with the REN.
Offering work to Ukrainian refugees
Having completed the vacancy information questionnaire, you’ll need to email this form to email@example.com. According to the official guidance, once information on any vacancies has been submitted by a UK-based business, your organisation should then be contacted by the National Employer and Partnership Team in the DWP within 5 working days to discuss the available roles in more detail and to explain what happens next.
The DWP is co-ordinating pledges from employers who are interested in recruiting people from Ukraine. In this way, job opportunities that you have will be shared across the entire DWP Jobcentre Plus network. Details of these opportunities will be shared with Jobcentre Plus work coaches, so that these are accessible for all DWP customers, where each Ukrainian refugee seeking work will be allocated a work coach once they register.
The information that you give to DWP, provided you consent to this, will also be shared with the REN. The REN charity is a network organisation which works with NGOs, local authorities and businesses across the UK, and can advertise any roles your business is offering through their networks, once you’ve discussed your offer with the DWP.
On a more cautionary note, however, care must be taken when offering work to Ukrainian refugees, especially when it comes to the use of language used in job advertisements, and the way in which you recruit and select a successful candidate. This is because discrimination laws in the UK significantly limit the extent to which employers can prioritise one nationality over another. While you can openly state that you welcome applications from Ukrainian refugees, strictly speaking, you cannot specifically seek to recruit them over other groups.
Clarification of immigration status
A number of schemes have been put in place in the UK to facilitate visa applications from Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict in their home country.
There are three specific schemes aimed at Ukrainian refugees to enable them to come to the UK, or remain in the UK, for an extended period of time, including:
Ukraine Family scheme
This allows immediate and extended family members of British nationals, UK settled persons and certain others to come to or stay in the UK
Ukraine Sponsorship scheme (Homes for Ukraine)
This allows Ukrainian nationals and family members to come to the UK if they have a named sponsor under the scheme who can provide them with suitable accommodation for a minimum period of 6 months
Ukraine Extension scheme
This allows Ukrainian nationals already living in the UK, or the family member of someone Ukrainian, to apply to extend their stay in the UK.
People applying under any one of these schemes will be granted leave to remain in the UK for a period of 3 years. This means that Ukrainian refugees will be able to lawfully live in the UK, undertake paid and self-employed work, and access benefits and public services.
In cases where a Ukrainian refugee seeking entry into the UK is in possession of a valid passport, they can use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to complete the identity verification stage of their visa application under either the Ukraine Family or Homes for Ukraine schemes. On arrival in the UK, they’ll need to show their ‘permission to travel’ letter to the Border Force officers, who will stamp their passport with a 6-month entry stamp.
The entry stamp is evidence of their temporary right to work, study and claim benefits, although they’ll need to submit their biometric data in the UK prior to expiry of this 6-month period to be granted leave for a total period of 3 years. If the individual has already attended an overseas visa application centre (VAC) and given their biometrics before coming to the UK, they’ll be given 3 years’ leave to enter on arrival by way of an entry clearance vignette attached to a ‘Form for Affixing the Visa’ (FAV). Shortly after arrival, a BRP will be available for collection, and will provide the individual with proof of their right to work in the UK.
Arrivals through either the Ukraine Family or Homes for Ukraine schemes don’t have formal refugee status, but they do have the right to work in the UK. The same core employment rights that everyone in the UK is entitled to will also be extended to people arriving in the UK from Ukraine, such as the right to be paid the national minimum wage. This means that if you’re offering employment opportunities to Ukrainian refugees, you must ensure that you understand these rights, as determined by the employment status of each individual.
Right to work checks and record-keeping
By law, you must check that any job applicant is allowed to work for you in the UK before you employ them. This can be done by conducting a prescribed right to work check. Failure to conduct the usual right to work checks at the start of the process when employing Ukrainian refugees, as is the case with any other employee, could result in you facing both civil and criminal penalties. Equally, because the right to work of a Ukrainian refugee is time-limited, you’ll also need to conduct follow-up checks shortly before an employee’s visa expires.
When first offering work to Ukrainian refugees with a valid passport, you’ll need to be shown their stamp or visa in their passport, granting them permission to stay under one of the Ukrainian schemes and giving them a time-limited right to work in the UK of 6 months. If you manually check this document as outlined in the official guidance that can be found at GOV.UK, and correctly record and retain evidence of your check, this will give you a time-limited statutory excuse against any civil penalty for illegal working.
Ukrainian refugees without a valid passport should be able to immediately produce a BRP as proof of their right to work in the UK. This is because they will have been required to provide their biometric data at an overseas VAC and to collect their BRP shortly after their arrival in the UK. The BRP can then be used to access the Home Office online checking service to prove a right to work via a share code for employers. If neceessary, individuals can use their FAV document as proof of their right to work, in conjunction with confirmation from the Home Office Employer Checking Service in the form of a Positive Verification Notice.
You’ll also be required to carry out a follow-up check on those individuals with time-limited permission to work in the UK. This should occur when their previous permission comes to an end. All Ukrainian nationals arriving under any one of the schemes should obtain a BRP granting them up to 3 years’ leave. BRP holders can then use the Home Office online checking service set out in the guidance at GOV.UK to prove their ongoing right to work.
Any prospective or existing employee who is a Ukrainian national, and who hasn’t applied for permission to stay in the UK, will not have a right to work. This means you should not employ them, or continue to employ them, until they’ve taken action to regularise their immigration status. If you know, or even have reasonable cause to believe, that you’re employing an illegal worker, you may face up to 5 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
Recognition of qualifications
Ukrainian people who hold professional qualifications, and will be working in a regulated profession, may first need them to be recognised in the UK. Any employer looking to understand more about the equivalence of professional qualifications should seek advice from the UK Centre for Professional Qualifications. This provides a free service which explains whether a profession is regulated and any entry requirements that will need to be met.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.