5 Legal Things to Know if you Plan to Hire a Refugee

5 Legal Things to Know if you Plan to Hire a Refugee

Following the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine, a large number of refugees have fled Ukraine for neighboring European Union nations. If you are thinking of hiring a refugee, here are five key things you need to know about their legal rights and protections, what you as an employer need to do to comply with the law, and how you may be helpful to Ukrainians by providing them with the proper resettlement resources. 

Overview of The Current Situation

More than two million Ukrainians fled across their country’s borders in the first week following Russia’s invasion, according to UN figures, and the number is expected to rise to four million by war’s end. Now, the focus is entirely on how to receive and absorb those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine – after all, basic safety and humanitarian assistance must take precedence. Before long, EU Member States will have to consider how to best assist newcomers in integrating into society by providing integration assistance. The Temporary Protection Directive’s recent activation is a significant – and historic – development that also allows Ukrainians and long-term residents to get access to important integration services as well as work.


5 Legal Things To Know if you Plan To Hire a Refugee

  1. Refugees Have the Right to Work
    In Estonia, refugees are legally entitled to work just like any other foreigner. However, they must go through the same process of applying for a work permit as any other non-EU citizen. The work permit application must be filed by the employer, and the permit must be obtained before the refugee can start working. 

    Ukrainian citizens who have come to Estonia on a visa or without one will be able to work in the country after they register short-term employment with their employer. The European Union has passed a regulation giving all Ukrainians who fled the war from February 24 temporary international protection status, which allows them to live and work in Estonia for one year with the same rights and obligations as Estonian citizens. Other citizens must wait 6 months to obtain a residency permit before they can work.

  2. Refugees Can Seek Welfare Support
    Estonia has one of the most comprehensive welfare systems in Europe. Estonia currently provides free housing and allowance to all refugees for two years. Refugees may also receive money for housing and costs of living, as well as assistance in finding work. They are entitled to the same social security benefits as Estonian citizens, as long as they reside in Estonia.
  3. Refugees Are Protected from Discrimination
    Refugees are protected from discrimination in employment under Estonian law. This means that employers cannot refuse to hire a refugee simply because they are a refugee. However, employers can still require refugees to meet the same qualifications and standards as other employees. 
  4. Refugees May Be Eligible for Integration Assistance
    Estonia offers a range of integration assistance programs to help refugees settle into their new lives. These programs include language courses, job-seeking assistance, and help in finding housing.
  5. Employers May Be Eligible for Integration Funding
    Employers who hire refugees may be eligible for integration funding to help with the costs of integrating refugees into the workplace. This funding can be used to cover the costs of language training, work experience placements, and other measures to help refugees settle into their new jobs.

    The European Commission has proposed a plan for EU Cohesion Action on Refugees in Europe (CARE), under which member states and regions may give urgent aid to persons fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The CARE plan includes a 2022 envelope of €10 billion of the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (‘REACT-EU’) to address the social and economic impact of the refugee crisis in the EU.

According to The Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit said: “With today’s proposal, the EU will ensure immediate support to those fleeing Ukraine. Member States will be able to use Cohesion funding to support refugees in finding jobs, starting or continuing education, and accessing childcare. They can also receive support for counseling, training and psychological assistance. Funding from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will also be crucial to provide much-needed food and basic material assistance.”

Employers can get access to this funding by contacting their local authority or the national authority responsible for managing the fund.

Integrating Ukrainian Refugees into the EU Labor Market

Since 2015, Europe has recognized the importance of validating informal and non-formal skills early on and recognizing foreign qualifications so that refugees can capitalize on their skills. For policymakers looking to do this and simultaneously fill shortage positions, Sweden’s Fast Track initiative can provide inspiration.

In order to integrate Ukrainian refugees into the EU labor market, policymakers need to take into account the unique skills and qualifications that these individuals bring. Additionally, it is important to create opportunities for networking and to address working conditions in order to make the transition into the labor market as smooth as possible. Finally, it is worth highlighting that the ability of Ukrainians to travel freely within the EU makes them more mobile than other refugees, increasing their chances for finding employment.

How Estonia is Helping Refugees Find Work

Estonia has put in place a number of policies and programs to help refugees find work. For example, its hotline for employers seeking to hire refugees is one way the government is trying to match refugees with jobs. Additionally, Estonia offers a range of integration assistance programs to help refugees settle into their new lives. These programs include language courses, job-seeking assistance, and help in finding housing.

Moreover, the Estonian government has prepared an “Overview of the current conditions of the possible arrival and adaptation of Ukrainian citizens in Estonia”. 

Helpful Resources for Refugees

If you are an employer in Estonia interested in hiring a refugee, and aiding them in their path to integration, please share the following resources with them to accelerate their process:

Jobs for Ukranians: https://www.onlineexpo.com/en/work-for-ukraininas-in-estonia/  

Coming to Estonia: https://www.kriis.ee/en/security-situation-europe/ukrainian-war-refugees/coming-estonia 

Staying in Estonia: https://www.kriis.ee/en/security-situation-europe/ukrainian-war-refugees/staying-estonia 

Applying for Asylum: International Protection: https://www.politsei.ee/en/instructions/international-protection 

Contacts for Ukrainian War Refugees: https://www.politsei.ee/en/instructions/information-on-the-war-in-ukraine