How to protect and support your workforce in Ukraine

Armed international conflicts can have disastrous impacts on individuals, countries, and businesses that operate in war zones. For UK businesses that have workers in the area, these conflicts present a myriad of challenges. Primarily among those, is keeping workers safe. Read on to find out more about supporting your staff in Ukraine.

Last updated 11 May 2022 to include more information about entry to the UK.

What main challenges face businesses with staff in Ukraine?

For businesses with workers in Ukraine, the biggest challenge is the immediate safety of those workers. Other issues can include supply chain constraints and demand disruption.

Maintaining communication with your workers may be difficult to do. You may want to ensure that you have updated mobile phone numbers, personal email addresses, and emergency contact information for your workers in Ukraine. 

If staff do need to leave the country, you may want to help them get back to work after relocating. Polish Law Firm Wardynski & Partners have made a guide specifically to assist Ukrainians who may be residing and working in Poland due to the Ukraine conflict.

Can Ukrainian nationals enter the UK?

Ukrainian nationals, who lived in Ukraine before 1 January 2022 and who have family members who are British citizens or who are settled in the UK, can apply for a Ukraine Family Scheme visa to enter the UK under new, less restrictive rules. This visa is free to apply for and will last up to 3 years. Security checks must still be passed, but some requirements, including financial and language requirements, have been removed. Visa processing capacity has been increased and applications can be made online or at Visa Application Centres throughout Europe (including in Poland, Moldova, Romania and Hungary). Since 14 March 2022, applicants with a Ukrainian passport have been able to apply for the family scheme online and provide biometrics after they arrive in the UK.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme allows Ukrainians without UK family members to enter the UK. Under this visa route, any Ukrainians that have a sponsor can come to the UK to live in accommodation provided for free by that sponsor. They will have leave to remain for at least three years, with access to work, education and public services. The scheme opened to expressions of interest from individuals, charities, community groups and businesses wanting to provide accommodation on 14 March 2022. On 18 March 2022, the scheme’s online visa application route for named contacts opened. For more information, read Sponsoring people under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Are other countries allowing entry for Ukrainian nationals?

Many countries (including Ukraine’s neighbours, various EU members and the United States) are accepting refugees from Ukraine and most are waiving documentation and time limit requirements.

Anyone leaving Ukraine should make sure that they have as much documentation as possible to prove their identity. Without a passport (or other official identification) it may take longer to process paperwork, which can lead to delays in reaching a destination country.

Where can I find legal or consular assistance for staff in Ukraine?

Some support is available through the British Embassy office in Kyiv by calling +380 44 490 3660. In-person consular assistance cannot currently be provided. The Home Office suggests that British nationals in Ukraine also register their presence in the country so that they can receive the latest information.

If you have staff in Ukraine, you can consider helping staff access and pay for legal assistance, particularly when legal help is needed to safely leave the country.  

An international network of pro bono lawyers has set up the Ukrainian Crisis Legal Aid Database to help those, including refugees, who need to locate legal assistance. A more general listing of Ukraine-based law firms is also available here

Free immigration advice can be obtained through the Ukraine Advice Project UK, a service launched by a group of volunteer legal professionals. They intend to help Ukrainian people enter the UK safely and legally to seek refuge and can provide general immigration information. 

How can I stay in touch with staff in Ukraine?

To make sure you can continue to communicate with affected staff, consider setting up alternative communication channels (eg text, voice messages or social media) and distributing clear instructions on how to get in touch from anywhere. 

To stay up to date and monitor the situation in Ukraine, consider signing up to email alerts such as those provided by The Guardian and by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

How do I help workers move to a safer location?

Staff in Ukraine may wish to shelter in place or try to move to another location. 

Consider offering support for staff moving to safer locations in the western part of Ukraine or neighbouring countries by, for example, arranging for transport to the border or safe zones, providing travel insurance, securing temporary housing or arranging for legal help from immigration lawyers. You can also consider arranging for private security services, such as Global Guardian, to help move staff to safer locations away from the fighting. 

Even if you do not know your staff’s destinations, 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. 

Can men of military age leave Ukraine?

As the Ukrainian government announced martial law and a general mobilisation against the invasion, men aged 18-60 are not currently allowed to leave the country. Exceptions 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);
  • Are a single parent with a child under 18;
  • Have 3+ children under the age of 18; or 
  • Have a disabled or adopted child, or whose relatives died or went missing during the anti-terrorist operation. 

How can I provide financial assistance to staff in Ukraine?

As banking and finances may become unstable, you may want to consider paying your staff early, or when you are certain that the funds will be available to them. For example, you can consider:

  • Paying advances or reimbursements of relocation expenses;
  • Offering additional paid time off; or
  • Paying workers using credit cards if they are more readily accepted where individuals are located.

Making it clear that staff in affected areas are not expected to continue working and should focus on their and their families’ safety can provide many with peace of mind. 

Where can I donate to support Ukrainians in need?

If you want to directly support Ukrainians in need, you can make donations to reputable organisations providing emergency assistance to those in need, for example:

  • UNICEF is increasing its emergency response activities and expanding operations across Ukraine, providing help (including safe drinking water, psychological care and emergency supplies) to children and families in need. 
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is assessing the immediate needs of refugees, mobilising international teams for the humanitarian and medical needs of Ukrainians as the conflict continues, preparing and dispatching medical kits.
  • ICRC is collecting donations to contribute to funding their humanitarian aid work providing essentials including food, water, shelter, and medicine for those in need. 
  • Voices of Children Foundation, an Eastern Ukrainian charitable organisation, is assisting with evacuation and emergency psychological assistance for children and families experiencing trauma from the war.
  • UN Refugee Agency is providing emergency assistance to families in Ukraine and is accepting donations to help displaced Ukrainians.
  • CARE is a humanitarian organisation providing immediate aid to Ukrainians in need with food, water, hygiene kits, support services, and cash assistance.
  • Sunflower of Peace, a US-based organisation, is purchasing and shipping medical supplies to doctors and paramedics working in Ukraine.
  • With Ukraine, a fund set up by the Ukrainian embassy in the UK, is collecting to support citizens through the conflict.

 

India Hyams

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