What are the main challenges facing businesses with workers in Ukraine?
For businesses with personnel in Ukraine, the biggest challenge involves the immediate safety of those workers. Whereas issues such as supply chain constraints, demand disruption and the need for operations redundancy are significant, during a war the most important issue is preservation of human life.
Many Ukrainians have been displaced, with preliminary numbers reporting over 3,000,000 refugees have fled the country. Most are going to Poland. The total number of Ukrainians who will be displaced is estimated to be over 5,000,000, which is more than 10% of the country's total population.
Keeping up communication with your workers will be critical. This may be difficult to do from afar. Businesses may want to ensure that they have updated mobile phone numbers, personal email addresses, and emergency contact information for their personnel in Ukraine.
If workers do need to leave, you may want to provide them with help getting back to work after relocating. Polish Law Firm Wardynski & Partners made a guide specifically to address Ukrainians who may be residing and working in Poland due to this conflict.
Where can I find legal assistance for workers in Ukraine?
Businesses might consider helping workers access and pay for legal assistance, particularly when legal help is needed to safely leave the country. U.S. citizens who have been working in Ukraine will have access to U.S. consular services in neighboring countries and passport and visa services are available in these locations. U.S. citizens can also seek emergency assistance from the U.S. State Department by filling out this online form or using the contact information provided by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. Note that the U.S. is not able to evacuate citizens in Ukraine at this time and the physical location of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is closed. The U.S. consulate in Poland has also provided helpful visa services information.
U.S. law firms are in the process of organizing pro bono help in collaboration with partners such as International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). IRAP offers legal help through an online form.
A website that supports a Ukrainian Crisis Legal Aid Database has been set up to help those who need to locate legal assistance. A more general listing of Ukraine-based law firms is available here.
More legal resources will launch over the coming days and weeks, and so we will keep updating this section as new information becomes available.
How do I stay in communication with workers in Ukraine?
As of this writing, Ukraine's internet and cellular services are still operational and active, though sporadic interruptions have also been reported. Some companies have started using encrypted messaging services such as Signal due to the possibility that other communication methods are being monitored or intercepted.
It may be a good idea to set up alternative communication channels (text, voice, and social media) and distribute clear instructions to affected workers on how to get in touch from anywhere in case they must evacuate. As noted above, making sure you have updated personal contact and emergency contact information will be helpful.
If traditional internet and telephone services go down, there may be other limited options, such as satellite-based services. However, getting those services deployed often requires equipment that logistically may not be deliverable during an armed conflict.
U.S.-based businesses whose operations and personnel are affected may want to sign up for the federal Overseas Security Advisory Council's free updates as a point of reference for what is going on in the country when personnel communications are limited. OSAC is part of the State Department and provides analysis reports for security issues worldwide, including Ukraine, as well as regular email updates, and other benefits.
How do I help workers move to a safer location?
As fighting intensifies in key parts of Ukraine, affected persons need to decide whether it is safer to shelter in place or try to move to another location. If the decision has been made to move, many companies are helping their personnel move to safer locations in the western part of the country or in neighboring countries (see the list of countries accepting refugees below). Assistance may include arranging for ground transport to the border or safe zones, providing travel insurance, or securing legal help from immigration attorneys.
If you know where your workers are moving to, you may be able to secure temporary housing and get them legal help to take care of the paperwork needed at their destination. Some companies are also arranging for private security services, such as Global Guardian, to help move personnel to safer locations away from the fighting.
With the large number of Ukrainians fleeing the country, most border crossings have become crowded and extremely slow. A crowdsourced Google Sheet has been created that provides information on queue lengths and wait times. An English language version is linked in the upper right corner.
Even if you do not know their destination, you may be able to help with the process. Being ready to provide documentation to verify employment or identity, or anything else needed to get a visa, can prove incredibly helpful. (Note the resources for legal assistance provided above.) Additionally, providing financial assistance for relocation, as well as advances on pay, may prove helpful. Some companies are providing credit cards in anticipation of the difficulties of withdrawing cash from banks.
Are men of military age (18-60) able to leave Ukraine?
The Ukraine government has recently announced martial law and a general mobilization against the Russian invasion. Consequently, men aged 18-60 are not being allowed to leave the country at this time. Exceptions to this rule exist for men who:
- Have a certificate of recruitment deferral and message on enrollment to special military registration;
- Have a conclusion of military and medical commission on ineligibility (medical or health);
- Have 3+ children under the age of 18;
- Are a single parent with a child under 18; or
- Have a child with disabilities or an adopted child, or whose relatives died or went missing during the anti-terrorist operation.
What countries are accepting refugees from Ukraine?
Currently, many countries are accepting refugees from Ukraine and most are waiving documentation and time limit requirements. The countries accepting the most refugees at this time are those that share a border with Ukraine: Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova, but not Russia and Belarus. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is reporting that border crossings into Poland and the main crossings into Moldova are severely backed up as of February 27. Crossing into Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia is, therefore, recommended.
- The U.S. Embassy in Hungary has set up a webpage with recommendations for which border crossings to use when entering Huntary from Ukraine.
- The U.S. Embassy in Slovakia has a webpage detailing entry requirements and border crossing information.
These EU member countries have stated that they will accept Ukrainians displaced by the war: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
The United States has said it is willing to accept 100,000 displaced Ukrainians and the UK will also take in refugees if they have relatives who are British nationals. Those fleeing Ukraine may need to first exit by ground before being able to get a flight beyond a neighboring country. Additionally, the U.S. announced that Ukrainians already in the U.S. are eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status to allow them to stay in the country.
Anyone leaving the country may want to make sure they have as much documentation as possible to prove their identity. A passport and Covid vaccination proof is ideal. Without a passport, or official identification, it may take longer to process paperwork, which can lead to delays in reaching a destination country.
What are some ways to provide financial assistance to my workforce in Ukraine?
During armed conflicts, banking and finances can become unstable. Companies may want to consider paying their workers early, or when they are certain that the funds will be available to them, include:
- Advances or reimbursements of relocation expenses.
- Additional PTO.
- Pay workers using credit cards if they are more readily accepted where individuals are located.
Additionally, making it clear that workers in affected areas are not expected to continue working and should focus on their or their families' personal safety can provide many with peace of mind.
Employers may also consider providing assistance to organize:
- Transportation to safety.
- Temporary housing.
- Delivery of emergency supplies.
Where can I make a donation to an aid agency that directly supports Ukranians with emergency care and critical supplies?
Another way to support those directly impacted by the Ukraine conflict is to make a donation to aid agencies that are providing emergency assistance to those in need in Ukraine. Here is a list of reputable organizations.
UNICEF is increasing its emergency response activities based out of its offices in Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Luhansk, and Donetsk, while also expanding operations across Ukraine. UNICEF provides immediate help to children and families in need, including safe drinking water; psychosocial care; and health, hygiene, and emergency supplies.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) has halted routine programs in Ukraine in order to focus on assessing the immediate needs of refugees and mobilizing international teams in preparation for the humanitarian and medical needs of Ukrainians as the conflict continues. MSF supply centers are preparing and dispatching medical kits.
Voices of Children Foundation is an Eastern Ukrainian charitable organization that assists children and families experiencing trauma from the war with emergency psychological assistance and assistance with evacuation.
UN Refugee Agency is committed to providing emergency assistance to families in Ukraine. You can make a donation specifically to help displaced Ukrainians through UNHCR.
CARE is a humanitarian organization providing immediate aid to Ukrainians in need with food, water, hygiene kits, support services, and cash assistance.
In solidarity with the people and government of Ukraine, Rocket Lawyer suspended Russian and Belarusian access to the Rocket Lawyer platform on March 9, 2022. Our global team continues to gather and publish information to assist displaced Ukrainians and employers of Ukrainian workers here:
How To Protect and Support Your Workforce in Ukraine (UK)
Sponsoring People Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme (UK)
Essential Information for Ukrainians Entering the UK
How To Apply for Refugee or Political Asylum Status in the U.S.
Checklist for Ukrainian Refugees (NL)
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.