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Refugees & COVID-19: Why the Ability to Self-Isolate is a Luxury

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By Aanya Bhandari, Sona Circle

In an appallingly short span of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a calamitous global effect, touching nearly every country and territory. As is the case with any catastrophic event, certain groups are left more vulnerable than others. One such group in this instance is refugees.

Refugees face immense barriers to accessing healthcare and taking preventive measures which others might take for granted, including regular hand-washing, sanitation facilities and of course, the ability to self- isolate.

A study by the University of Birmingham shows that many undocumented migrants are apprehensive about seeking medical help, for the fear of being reported to immigration authorities and being deported. As a result, they are often left to suffer in silence.

Even in normal times, those living as refugees, migrants, or internally displaced due to conflict, environmental disasters or extreme poverty, face physical and psychological barriers to integration. However, due to the pandemic restrictions, which have put a halt to economic activity globally, groups of individuals that were once extremely vulnerable are now struggling to survive.

Employment opportunities which were previously available in the informal economy have vanished, resulting in a loss of income opportunities and an increase in economic hardships for millions.

As UK unemployment claims have soared by nearly 70% since April 2020, we’re left to imagine the impact on refugees, considering the refugee unemployment rate has historically been three times as high as that of the British population.

While many NGOs and governmental organisations are working to stabilise the situation on the economic front, COVID-19 has no geographic borders or language barriers, and self-isolation is far from becoming a reality in major refugee camps around the world. Refugees residing in shelters, shared lodgings and overcrowded housing with common kitchens and toilets are simply unable to self-isolate, bolstering health risks and concerns about contracting the virus.

According to an emergency release by UNHCR, 134 refugee hosting countries have reported local transmission of COVID-19 within camps, including Bangladesh which hosts almost 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, with 600,000 concentrated in the Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site.

Consequently, local NGOs have cut down on the number of volunteers going into refugee camps to decrease the risk of bringing in the virus. As a result, many initiatives that support refugees, including education, skill development, and mental health counseling sessions, have been stopped.

The cumulative effect of the economic, social, psychological, and medical complications has caused an unprecedented disruption to the lives of millions of refugees.

As the world economy struggles to re-stabilise, the global community must work together and demonstrate solidarity to ensure that the human rights and protection of forcibly displaced people are preserved.

While you’re surrounded by your loved ones, in the safety and comfort of your homes, you can show your support by making a donation (no matter how big or small) to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK, via our Just Giving page.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sonacircle

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7 Tips to Creating Refugee-Friendly Recruitment Practises

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By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

A diverse and inclusive workplace is an asset to any business. If you have read our previous blog post on the key benefits of hiring refugees, and are now ready to integrate refugees into your workplace, congratulations on making a great business (and humanitarian) decision!

Here are our top tips for making your recruitment practices refugee-friendly.

1. Review your language requirements

Refugees may still be developing their English language skills, and therefore job descriptions specifying a high level of English may be off-putting. Of course, some jobs, such as some content writing roles, will require a thorough knowledge of the English language, but many roles will not.

Have a second think through your role requirements to see what level of language skills is absolutely necessary.

In addition, consider whether key instructions and documents could be translated to different languages to accommodate refugee candidates and employees.

To make your roles even more accessible to refugees, you can embed English language training into your workplace. Currently, refugees can access funding for English tuition whilst unemployed and looking for a job, why not support their development by continuing this training in the workplace.

2. Support refugees to transfer qualifications

Many refugees have prior qualifications, attended university, or were previously employed in skilled employment; however the majority end up working in manual or unskilled labour in the UK.

It is important for employers to be open to helping refugees prove and verify their qualifications, by working with regulatory and industry bodies, or by consulting the NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre).

This will allow refugees to access employment that fits their skills and interests which will be both much more rewarding for refugees and also enable employers to benefits from the full knowledge and talents of their employees.

3. Support employee’s mental health

The long hours and demands on employees in the workplace can be stressful for us all. More employers across the country are coming to realise the importance of supporting their employee’s mental health.

This requirement is even more critical when working with refugees who have often had to overcome traumatic experiences before arriving at their host countries.

Making sure your workplace prioritises the mental health of employees, such as by allowing mental health sick days and creating a supportive and open environment around mental health, will help refugees (and other employees!) feel much more comfortable and also perform better.

4. Offer internships and apprenticeships

Internships and apprenticeships, which provide on-the-job-training, can help refugees ease more gradually into the UK workplace, gain new skills, improve existing ones, learn about the workplace culture and also gain confidence.

As with job applications, try to ensure that entry requirements for internships and apprenticeships are accessible to refugees, for example by reviewing the language requirements.

More information and support on refugee internship and apprenticeship programmes can be found on the Sona Circle website.

5. Publicise inclusivity in your workplace

Being a socially conscious and inclusive organisation is something to be very proud of. Be sure to let the world know that your practises are aligned with your values. Your actions could inspire others to follow suit. As a thought leader in the marketplace, this is your responsibility.

Make it clear on your website, social media and PR campaigns and also on job adverts, that you are a refugee-friendly, diverse and inclusive employer.

Share the steps you are taking to make your workplace inclusive, such as by making space for religious holidays or setting up a Cultural Awareness Network.

6. Combat unconscious bias by educating employees

To make your workplace even more inclusive, be sure you are promoting inclusion and diversity at all levels.

This can include delivering unconscious bias training to all employees, rather than just for the hiring managers. Engage senior management in the refugee hiring programme, and offer training to supervisors to help them support their refugee hires.

This will all lead to the creation of a positive, diverse workplace environment, not only for refugees, but for all employees.

7. Find a partner to help you recruit refugee candidates

Get in touch with the friendly and supportive team at Sona Circle Recruitment to help you access refugee talent for your business and for advice with your recruitment process.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we offer refugee employment and internship programmes for employers to recruit talented and committed employees.

We simplify the process by selecting a pool of great candidates who fit your requirements, before you interview the candidates and make your selection.

If you aren’t hiring right now, you can show your support by donating to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Campaign. Sona Circle is a non-profit social enterprise and 100% of donations go directly to helping create employment opportunities for refugees.

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6 Ways to Convince your Employer to Hire Refugees

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By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

If you feel passionately about workplace equality and the social integration of refugees, addressing a lack of diversity in your own workspace is a great place to start. But having these types of conversations with your employers can be difficult, which is why we have created a list of key points that you can use to convince your boss to hire refugees.

1. Consumers care about diversity and inclusion

If your employer is reluctant to hire refugees, it’s good to point out that consumers are increasingly concerned with the ethical values of the businesses they support. For example, in 2017 the Cone Communications CSR study found that 78% of consumers say they want companies to address important social justice issues. Additionally, 87% said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

With an increase in awareness of systemic racism and racial bias, thanks to the Black Lives Matter protests, this stance is likely to gain some traction. Therefore, hiring refugees may have the advantage of satisfying socially conscious customers.

2. You could attract other skilled labour

Additionally, research has shown that millennials specifically want to work for companies that are more diverse and inclusive, and this affects which jobs they apply to. A study by Deloitte also found that millennials are more engaged with their jobs when they perceive their workplaces to be more inclusive.

3. Refugees have a variety of employable skills

One reason many companies are reluctant to employ refugees is out of a perception that they lack relevant experience. However, often refugees’ valuable qualifications and overseas experience are not recognised by UK employers. Therefore, the refugee population could be a large skilled workforce with untapped potential.
It’s a good idea to encourage your employer to be more open-minded about the types of previous experience and qualifications that could be highly relevant to their business.

4. You should practice what you preach

If your employer likes to pride themselves on being socially conscious or ‘human centric’, it’s worth reminding them that hiring refugees and creating a more diverse workplace, is a great way to prove that they really are.

5. You could be nominated for a diversity award

In various employment sectors there are a growing number of awards for diversity and inclusion. Examples include, the Employee Engagement Awards and the Inclusive Company Awards. Being awarded with recognition for workplace diversity is something a company can pride themselves on, and will illustrate to consumers that they are dedicated to inclusivity.

6. Sona Circle Recruitment can help

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we connect socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce in the UK. Our refugee internship programme matches qualified and committed members of the refugee workforce with exciting new start-ups and growth businesses.

How else can I help?

You can also show your support by making a donation (no matter how big or small) to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK.

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5 Key Benefits to Hiring Refugees

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Hiring refugees in your small business or start-up has a whole host of benefits that simply don’t get enough attention. Without a wide range of skills and talent, a business runs the risk of stagnating. Hiring refugee interns to access a highly motivated and diverse talent pipeline is the ideal way to combat this.

What’s more, refugees consistently face barriers to employment in the UK, so hiring refugees allows you to help others whilst still growing your business. It’s a win-win situation for all involved!

Below are five key benefits to hiring refugees that every SME and start-up should know about:

1. Diversify your workforce

Your business can directly benefit from ethnic and cultural diversity. Research by McKinsey & Company found that teams that are more culturally and ethnically diverse are 33% more likely to be more profitable than their less-diverse competitors.

Refugees are not a homogenous group, and come from a wide range of backgrounds, so taking on refugee interns or staff can hugely increase the diversity of your business. Drawing from this wide range of candidates from all over the world can greatly help diversify thinking and skillsets within your business, leading to vastly improved innovation and growth.

2. Access skilled and qualified candidates

Refugees are often highly skilled and experienced. Research from the Nuffield Foundation found that nearly half of the refugees surveyed held a qualification before coming to the UK, and Deloitte found that 38% of refugees surveyed had a University education. Refugees have a wide range of talents and professional skills, and due to their experiences have often developed enormous resilience and adaptability.

In addition, refugees are likely to be proficient in a number of languages other than English, which can be another asset to businesses growing into international markets.

3. Increase employee communication and empathy

Encouraging employees to interact with refugees from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds will develop soft skills such as effective communication, empathy and teamwork.

We suggest using ‘buddy’ schemes to support refugee hires, to help employees develop these skills with the intern they are supporting. This interaction will encourage innovative and new thinking throughout the whole team, facilitated by the inclusion of the new refugee intern or employee.

4. Keep roles filled by ideal candidates

73% of employers surveyed in the US found that refugees had higher retention rates than other employees, so hiring refugees will allow you to keep this great new talent for longer which significantly reduces recruitment and training costs and encourages uninterrupted business continuity.

Sona Circle Recruitment’s refugee internship programme can help your business recruit a targeted talent pipeline, which can be developed into a dedicated and committed long-term workforce.

5. Decrease unconscious employee bias

Creating opportunities for your employees to work alongside a diverse refugee workforce will both enable employees to develop new skills and ideas, while also reducing staff’s unconscious bias.

This will increase workplace cohesion and integration, boost staff morale and improve teamwork. You’ll create a diverse and committed team, which recognises the importance of a fair and socially progressive workplace.

So how can Sona Circle Recruitment help you?

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we connect socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce in the UK. Our refugee internship programme matches qualified and committed members of the refugee workforce with exciting new start-ups and growth businesses. You can learn more about our refugee employment programmes here.

Our mission in 2020 is to create up to 100 new employment opportunities for refugees in the UK and we now need your support to achieve this ambitious target.

You can show your support by making a donation (no matter how big or small) to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK.