Employing Refugees: Practical Issues

Can refugees work?

It is a commonly held misconception that refugees either have limits on the kind of employment that they can take or need work permits to take up employment. Refugees, those with Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave all have unrestricted access to the UK labour market.

What information is available for employers?

The UK Border Agency provides comprehensive guidance for employers on preventing illegal working, which can be downloaded here. This includes information about refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the varying categories of other migrants to the UK. In recognition that employers often find the documentation presented by refugees confusing, the UKBA compiled a summary of the relevant guidance applicable to refugees. This was published in August 2010 and is available here.

New documentation for refugees in 2012

From early 2012 all asylum seekers granted permission to stay in the UK will be issued a Biometric Residence Permit. These are already issued to some categories of migrant workers and are credit-card sized photo ID that also contain biometric information about the individual. Key concerns in Employability Forum are that

  • the card is issued with all other grant documentation and includes the person's National Insurance Number;
  • the card clearly states that employment is permitted and the holder has access to public funds;
  • employers and other key stakeholders (eg banks, housing authorities, universities, hospitals etc) are aware of and understand the new card, including what the individual's rights and entitlements are as the temporary leave nears its expiry date;
  • as the card cannot be applied for retrospectively, refugees holding different forms of ID do not experience increased difficulties in accessing services.