Red tape stops refugees filling UK’s skills gap

shows complicated rules are preventing employers from taking on asylum-seekers.
The Personnel Today team reports

John is desperate to get a job in the UK after fleeing from Sudan.

He is well qualified with a university degree and has over four years’
relevant work experience for the positions he has applied for. In Sudan, he was
the training director of a company.

Since coming here, he has applied for over 30 jobs without success. He
believes that many employers in the UK do not recognise his overseas

Unfortunately, John is not alone. Over 60 per cent of the 153 refugees
surveyed by Personnel Today and the Refugee Council have been unemployed in the
UK for more than a year, and over a quarter have been unemployed for more than
three years.

Many of the refugees are well qualified. As many as 28 per cent have a
university degree from their country of origin, and just under a quarter
possess A-level or GCSE equivalents.

Many also have highly relevant work experience for the jobs they are
applying for. Over 50 per cent have more than three years’ relevant work
experience in their country of origin, and 61 per cent have more than three
months’ work experience in the UK.

These figures are at odds with the views expressed by the 255 HR
professionals who responded to Personnel Today’s survey on employer attitudes
to refugees and asylum-seekers.

Nine out of 10 employers would consider employing refugees to meet skills
shortages and six out of 10 are currently having difficulties recruiting,
according to our survey of 255 organisations. Over 40 per cent of the
respondents employ more than 1,000 staff.

Employers face significant barriers when trying to take on refugees. Seven
out of 10 HR professionals are worried they might break the law. There can be a
£5,000 fine for those who recruit an ineligible asylum-seeker.

The problem stems from the complicated and inconsistent paperwork on
refugees’ and asylum-seekers’ eligibility to work from the Government. Of the
HR professionals who have tried to employ refugees and asylum-seekers, 45 per
cent have encountered difficulties with red tape.

Personnel Today is calling for a standard permission-to-work document to
increase the consistency of the process and enable HR professionals to be
confident that they’re taking on a legal worker – and 95 per cent of those who
have tried to employ asylum-seekers and refugees agree.

There are also problems with the Government’s failure to record
asylum-seekers’ qualifications, experience and skills.

Nearly half the employers who responded have had difficulty verifying work
experience and over a third have faced problems evaluating overseas

Many refugees – 58 per cent – believe that employers do not recognise their
qualifications. It is clear there is a need for Government-backed system of
recording the skills, qualifications and availability of refugees. Eight out of
10 of the HR professionals who responded want the Government to set up a skills

Importantly, the research also shows that the standard of asylum-seekers and
refugees looking for work does not present a barrier. Only 2 per cent claimed
they had insufficient skills.

The barriers are intimidating for organisations. A third of the those that
have never employed a refugee have tried to take one on, which suggests they
have simply found the process too problematic.

Employers want to take refugees on and the refugees want jobs. It is time
the Government acted to marry the two.

The survey’s key findings

– Seven out of 10 employers are worried about breaking the law when
employing refugees

– Nine out of 10 employers would take on refugees to meet
skills shortages

– Eight out of 10 employers want the Government to set up a
skills database

– Nine out of 10 employers want a standard permission- to-work

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