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How to hire a refugee

If you’re looking for new staff for your team, and you’re looking to hire from a more diverse selection of employees, it might be worth considering hiring a refugee. We’ve found out what skills a refugee can bring to your business, and why hiring refugees can improve your team.

What is a refugee?

The legal definition of a refugee is a person who, according to the UK government, has a, ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’. A person who has been forced to flee their country due to the risk of persecution, violence or war may be unable to return home, or are afraid to do so. 

A refugee can come from anywhere in the world, but if they meet this definition they’re able to seek asylum in the UK. It’s difficult to know how many refugees are currently living in the UK, as a person’s residential status can change over time. A person may enter the UK as a refugee, and over the years apply for permanent residence or indeed UK citizenship. It’s estimated that about 0.2% of the UK population were refugees in 2015.

Can businesses hire refugees?

A person who is granted humanitarian protection has unrestricted access to the labour market. The refugee can demonstrate their ability to work through their Biometric Residence Permit or Immigration Status Document. In short, anyone with refugee status in the UK has the right to work.

What barriers prevent refugees from finding work?

Those who enter the UK as refugees face a unique set of barriers in finding work. Some refugees will have fled their countries before they could finish their education. Many find that their qualifications are not automatically recognised in the UK.

 Additionally, they face the challenge of being in an entirely new environment, often with very little support. This means that initially refugees can face issues around learning a new language, and finding and using transportation; both of which are important for starting work.

How do refugees benefit businesses?

Hiring refugees is a great way to make your team more diverse. According to Mckinsey, teams that are ethnically diverse are more likely to outperform their competition. Having employees with different backgrounds and life experiences is enormously beneficial for businesses as it allows them to keep up with their competitors and grow within their industries.

According to TENT, refugees have significantly higher job retention rates than those who are not refugees. The hiring process is one of the most expensive parts of running a business; it is estimated that it costs the average SME around £3,000 every time they hire someone new. Refugees stay in their jobs longer than those who aren’t refugees, which drastically cuts hiring costs.

Finally, refugees are great for business growth. Not only are they likely to have a range of qualifications from their home countries, they’re also likely to have greater language skills which can be utilised by businesses to reach new customers and clients. When businesses have a team who speak numerous languages and have a diverse skill set, they’re able to reach communities that a homogenous team cannot.

How can businesses hire a refugee?

There are a number of avenues that businesses can utilise in order to hire a refugee. You can contact the Department of Work and Pensions to let them know the work that you’re able to offer through the UK government website. You do not have to pay for this service.

Alternatively, businesses can partner with a refugee recruitment organisation. These agencies are often not-for-profit, and they focus on helping refugees settle in the UK through getting them access to training, language classes and job opportunities. Two such organisations that business can partner with are The Refugee Employment Network (REN), and Sona Circle are two such organisations in the UK. 

The Refugee Employment Network (REN) is a charity which seeks to help refugees in the UK find fulfilling and appropriate paid employment. Employers register their interest on their website, and after being approved they can post unlimited job opportunities on the Refugee Employment Network’s jobs board. Candidates can then apply to these job opportunities directly, and employers can invite suitable candidates to interview.

Sona Circle is a non-profit social enterprise which aims to help refugees get into work in their local communities, through education, training and job opportunities. They also request that employers register their interest on their website, and subsequent to being approved, their job opportunities are then advertised on Sona Circle. They’ll also help you filter through respondents in order to connect you with skilled and qualified applicants.

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