The war in the Ukraine is deeply worrying and upsetting for everyone worldwide and many people will be feeling great anxiety about the unfolding situation and what may happen next.
For employers, there they will also want to do all they can to support their employees’ safety, but how? Firstly, there may be employers who employ Ukrainian nationals on a visa, so what happens when their visa expires? For some, they may employ family members of Ukrainian nationals who are caught up in the war, who will be deeply distressed. There may even be employers who still have an employee in the Ukraine or employ somebody who wants to support the war by going over to fight in Ukraine.
We must also not forget that for some employers, they may employ both Russian and Ukrainian nationals or employ family members who live in Russia.
So employers need to carefully consider the support measures they can introduce to help anyone who may be directly affected by the conflict and how to manage different situations. Support should be extended to all employees, not just those who may be directly impacted, because everyone will share the feelings of sadness and worry that comes with this humanitarian crisis, and quite often, people want to feel as though they are doing something to help and so, consideration to this is just as important. Furthermore, the actions of Russia are not of those of Russian nationals and for employers who employ both Russian and Ukrainian employees it is about ensuring both feel supported that both parties are not subjected to unwanted behaviours either by each other, or from others.
Here are 10 ideas for how you can ensure your workplace is as supportive as possible for everyone during these difficult and uncertain times:
- Identify those employees who may need help by sending a company-wide communication to everyone. You may already know of individuals but to avoid singling out and discriminating, it is best to address any communications to the whole workforce. Those that want support will respond accordingly.
- Remind all employees of any Employee Assistance Programme you offer or for those employers who do not operate an EAP, signpost to employees how they can access counselling and advice externally.
- If you provide mental health first aiders in the workplace, ensure that all employees know who these individuals are and how they can be contacted.
- For those employees who have family members in the Ukraine, can you offer time out of the workplace to help them support their family member in making necessary practical arrangements for leaving the Ukraine. This could be paid or unpaid and we would suggest providing how much time out you are happy to support so that you can effectively manage any absence.
- If you employ Ukrainian nationals on a visa, hold individual supportive meetings to understand any implications the crisis may have on their visa, especially if there are visas which are due to expire imminently. We advise contacting the relevant authority as referenced in the further information section below or seeking immigration advice for your situation.
- Employees who wish to have time out of the workplace to go to the Ukraine to fight need to be aware that The Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 makes it unlawful for a UK citizen to fight for a foreign power at war with a state the UK is at peace with. Whilst employers can make decisions about any time out from the workplace, it is not for an employer to advise on any legal implications from their actions and so we would encourage employers to direct their employee to official channels to fully understand the implications and if it would lead to them committing a legal offence.
- Communications with those who are directly impacted should be supportive and frequent so that the individual feels fully supported, and that the line manager can anticipate any further support that may be required or help to support in the management of their workload if necessary.
- Employees may also be wanting to take personal steps to help in the crisis, whether this is to donate emergency supplies or money or time to volunteer. It may be helpful to your workforce to know of where they can take any unused items for donation, or how they can make a financial donation. If you offer a company policy that supports people to take part in charity work, remind your employees of this, as they may wish to participate in charity work to help with the collection of resources for refugees.
- Keep up to date on the developments as they unfold, whilst the above steps may be appropriate today, the situation could develop that have greater impact on UK employers and employees which may necessitate further support.
- We are hearing of company’s rescinding their ties with Russian based companies. This decision will be unique to each business.
- Government advice page: Support for family members of British nationals in Ukraine and Ukrainian nationals in Ukraine and the UK
- Ukraine foreign travel advice
- The British Red Cross Ukraine crisis appeal
- Ukrainian Institute London: providing ways in which support can be given to Ukraine and Ukrainians