Businesses keen to employ refugees but need support

Refugees can play a key part in relieving the skills shortage, and would benefit greatly from employment. But are employers ready and able?

New research suggests that many businesses are keen, but unsure of how to help.

While a majority (62%) say they are open to hiring refugees – and 51% say they are likely to hire a refugee in the next year – nearly half (40%) say they would need additional support, according to research by professional services firm Grant Thornton.

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Matthew Powell, CEO and founder of refugee employment charity Breaking Barriers, told HR magazine there are huge benefits to hiring refugees.

He said: “Recruiting refugees addresses skills gaps at every level of employment due to the diverse range of talent and potential in the refugee community. 

Almost half (47%) of the charity’s clients last year had completed higher education; 40% had good to advanced English; and 57% had four years or more of work experience.

He added: “The majority of businesses want to be socially responsible, and by supporting and hiring people from a refugee background they can tackle unemployment, inequalities, and accelerate effective change [to society].”

The UK currently has a record 1.25 million job vacancies according to the ONS, and is looking at a growing skills gap.

Many of the skills that could fill these gaps, however, are escaping employers. 

Nicola Inge, employment and skills director at charity Business in the Community, said employers should re-examine their recruitment processes, and remove any that create barriers to employment for disadvantaged job seekers like refugees.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “Language barriers and creating a supportive culture are hugely important for refugees in the workplace, but another big issue is the need for jobseekers to have gained their professional qualifications in the UK. 

Britain’s estimated 374,000 refugees are four times more likely to be unemployed, according to 2019 figures from Oxford University’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society.

“Employers could be losing out on talent based on this old-fashioned way of recruiting.”

Martyn Dicker, director of people at Unicef, told HR magazine that diverse recruitment is integral to organisational culture, but there are some barriers.

He said: “I think the main challenge for organisations (and we’re all at different places on this) is understanding at which point of the [recruitment] process you’re struggling most on.”

Employers could be failing to attract diverse talent with their job offers, or being inadvertently prejudicial in recruitment assessments, so further checks are advised. 

He added: “Do that on the basis of the data you have, think sensibly about where you’re advertising, and get a diverse range of people to look, for example, at your website."