· News

UK Borders Agency issues guide for employers on document checks to carry out and rights to observe when hiring refugees and asylum seekers

UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has released new guidance for employers taking on refugees and asylum seekers.

The booklet, Guidance for Employers on Illegal Working: Refugees and Asylum Seekers, gives employers clear information on the documentation checks they need to carry out when recruiting refugees and asylum seekers, and also includes details of the employment rights of refugees, the bespoke documentation they are issued with in place of a national passport, and how refugees differ from other foreign nationals in the UK.

Refugees too often face a number of barriers accessing work.

According to the Refugee Council, many employers do not recognise the Home Office documentation given to refugees, or are not aware of the employment rights of refugees who have temporary leave to remain in the UK. Importantly, the guidance now includes the steps employers should take for refugee job applicants who have come to the end of their leave, and have now applied for further leave to stay here.

This has been an issue for people granted Discretionary Leave to Remain for some time, but the guidance is published at a critical time in particular for a number of refugees who, from August 2010, are now having to apply for permanent residence in the UK.

They are the first group of refugees who were given five years’ limited leave to remain when they applied in 2005. These refugees still have permission to work while their applications for permanent leave to remain are being processed, so the new UKBA guidance includes the steps employers should take for refugee job applicants undergoing this process.

In March 2009, the Refugee Council published a guide in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Employing Refugees, which has been used extensively by employers to ensure that refugees are treated equally in the recruitment process. Employing Refugees included guidance from UKBA on the steps employers should take for refugees who have applied for further leave to remain. Since then, the Refugee Council has been lobbying for this to be included in the UKBA’s main Comprehensive Guidance for Employers on Preventing Illegal Working, along with clearer information on the employment rights and entitlements of refugees.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "At the Refugee Council, we work on a daily basis with refugees who struggle to find work, due to the many barriers they come up against. It is clear that employers need to be made aware of the rights of refugees to work in the UK without restrictions, and without facing discrimination.

"We and our partners have been recommending the UKBA publish new and up-to-date guidance for employers for some time, so we are delighted they have now done so. We would urge employers to take heed of the new booklet, to ensure they not only recognise refugees’ right to work in the UK, but so they can also capitalise on the amazing skills and talents refugees can bring to the British workplace."