Demand grows for Ukrainian employment in local jobs market

Refugees wait in a crowd for transportation after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the Medyka border crossing in Poland. Many Ukrainian civilians who have escaped the country could end up in Northern Ireland, looking for a job

A NUMBER of businesses in Northern Ireland are currently seeking legal support and guidance on employing Ukrainian nationals in a bid to aid the humanitarian crisis and avail of the broad skillset of refugees, according to a Belfast solicitor.

But Seamus McGranaghan, director of employment law at O’Reilly Stewart, has warned firms that while the opportunity represents a win-win, they must be careful to conduct due diligence and adhere to fair and just employment practices.

New concessions mean that in addition to visa applications and the visa scheme for family members, Ukrainian refugees have been granted leave to live and work in the UK for up to three years.

The scheme is seen as presenting an opportunity for businesses in the north to expand and strengthen their workforce with skilled refugee workers at time when job vacancies across a range of sectors remain high.

Mr McGranaghan believes particular sectors which could benefit include IT, hospitality and retail, with many foreign nationals having left Northern Ireland in the wake of the Brexit arrangements.

He said: “The local economy is hungry for skilled workers. Hospitality in particular is struggling to provide a steady flow of skilled labour into an industry that employed 34,000 people pre-Covid, and the IT sector continues to grow, providing 15 per cent of all employment vacancies with demand considerably outstripping supply.

“So with Ukraine’s proficient skill levels in both sectors, many businesses rightly see this as an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the global humanitarian aid campaign, while also addressing their pressing skillset needs.

“But companies must ensure they adopt the appropriate legal procedures and that a fair and equitable employment process is followed that is not discriminatory.

”Businesses cannot be seen to be favouring applicants from Ukraine at the expense of other candidates and they must adhere to due process.

“There are a number of initiatives that will help business navigate this, including a process known as ‘positive action’ which is allowed to help increase workplace diversity, but the details of this must be diligently followed.”

Mr McGranaghan added: “This situation is unusual, in the past refugees looking for work have mainly been men happy to work long hours but the majority of Ukrainian refugees looking for employment will be women so potential employers will have to be flexible around childcare provisions.”

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