Employers have been urged by HR’s leading body in the UK, the CIPD, to show flexibility and understanding with all workers affected by the invasion of Ukraine.
The CIPD has said that increased flexibility over working hours, compassionate support including bereavement leave, and wellbeing checks were all facets of what employees from eastern Europe with links to Ukraine required.
It also pointed to the difficulties involved with having to make rapid decisions to withdraw businesses from Russia for ethical and reputational reasons.
Companies with strong links to Russia have been faced with difficult decisions over employees with one IT recruitment agency having to cut ties with its founder city after a negative reaction to it from international clients and candidates.
Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward adviser at the CIPD, said: “The terrible situation in Ukraine means business has had to respond from both a moral and reputational standpoint. However, buyers or suppliers will find it easier to extricate themselves from Russia than businesses who have worksites there given the possible consequences for local staff.
“HR teams will need to think about the related people issues of such a move, for example, if they can relocate staff elsewhere.
“Understandably, there is also more interest in pension funds at this time. Employers should be open and transparent about what kind of investments are being made on behalf of their employees, and provide details on any plans to divest funds.”
Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said: “Employers can help by providing flexibility and understanding if they have members of staff who are affected by the conflict in Ukraine, for example, if they have relatives in the country or concerns about anyone in the region as a result of the crisis. Managers should be checking in on their colleagues who are more directly affected by the crisis for any reason and signpost wellbeing and mental health support where it’s needed.
“Providing flexibility over time off or over working hours can help employees balance competing demands on them and aid in managing stress and anxiety, for example, if they trying to establish the whereabouts or safety of loved ones. Organisations should also be prepared to provide compassionate support if staff are affected by bereavement as a result of the conflict.”
IT recruitment agency withdraws from Russia
One previously Russia-based international IT recruitment agency has said it will relocate its business from the country in the next few weeks because of the Putin administration’s invasion of Ukraine. Its founder said Putin’s invasion was completely wrong and that clients and prospective candidates had reacted negatively to the agency because of the war.
Lucky Hunter’s staff in its St Petersburg office are thought to be immediately leaving the country. Company founder Tatiana Melnichuk told the Recruiter website the firm had closed its St Petersburg base and that a new office in Armenia would supplement the company’s London HQ in Covent Garden – which itself only opened last year.
“We are against the policy organised by the Russian government,” Melnichuk said in her statement, adding: “Our company is international. We have colleagues from Ukraine and Belarus, and we are sick at heart when we receive such awful news.”
The firm’s St Petersburg staff were relocating to Armenia and Georgia, among other countries, the company said.
With eastern Europe such a strong area for recruitment in IT, employees at various firms such as giant outsourcer EPAM Systems, have demanded their leaders condemn Russia’s actions.
Melnichuk told Recruiter that her company and candidates from Russia and Belarus had experienced “dismissive” attitudes as a result of the war with some clients “putting co-operation with us on hold while our recruiters receive a lot of unpleasant messages from foreign candidates”.
On LinkedIn, she went further, urging recruiters, IT professionals and candidates not to harbour negativity towards people based on their nationality: “You can see a surge of hatred towards the entire Russian people (as well as the Belarusian, although about just a year ago the whole world almost unanimously supported the citizens of Belarus in their desire to influence the situation and change the circumstances prevailing at that time in their country) in all fields, including the IT industry where I work.
“The IT industry has always been a field where no discrimination takes place based on socio-demographic factors, religion etc. IT is always primarily about a person. Please, let’s keep this in mind today.
“We have always said that in IT you are judged only by your professionalism – I would really like this tendency to continue: so let people be judged by their professionalism, and not by the Russian passport.”