Several major UK firms have joined forced to offer employment to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
As first reported by the Sunday Times, well-known names like retail giants Marks & Spencer and Morrisons, fashion brand Asos and cosmetics icon Lush are among the companies that are in talks with Downing Street about arranging jobs and accommodation for thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
According to the Sunday Times, a coalition of more than 40 large firms has been formed (with even more reportedly in talks to join), to provide as many as 10,000 jobs. Furthermore, the publication reported that the businesses were working to help the refugees secure visas, accommodation and even language training.
According to the BBC, the initiative is being led by British entrepreneur Emma Sinclair, the chief executive of Enterprise Alumni, who said the movement had quickly gained ground in a short space of time.
She told the broadcaster: "People are inherently generally good, and people want to help,” adding: "We [businesses] want people, we need people, and we want to help.
"We want to see movement on rising numbers of refugees."
Firms to welcome refugees ‘with open arms’
A number of big names have expressed a commitment to supporting Ukrainian refugees.
Marks & Spencer, which is part of the new consortium, said it was "absolutely committed to supporting Ukrainian refugees" through the jobs scheme as well as supporting humanitarian efforts, which it is discussing with the Home Office.
Online fashion retailer Asos, which is also involved in the initiative, told the BBC: "We are currently recruiting for many tech engineering roles in the UK and we know Ukraine has a strong skill set in this area.
"We are also working with our partners to explore opportunities at our distribution centres in the UK and elsewhere in Europe."
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'Not about politics' | HR leaders step in to help Ukrainian workers leave the country
Asos expects the number of positions to be in ‘double digits’ in the UK, according to the BBC. The firm also explained that it has a strong Ukrainian workforce in Poland, and so opportunities for newly arrived refugees will also be available there.
A spokesperson for supermarket chain Morrisons told City AM: “Morrisons will welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms.
“We contacted the Home Office last week to offer any assistance we could through providing employment for Ukrainian refugees and we believe we could find good roles for many hundreds of men and women.”
High street cosmetics business Lush said it was "happy to consider refugees for any role, even those we would usually advertise for internal candidates only".
The brand added that it was recruiting web developers and other tech roles, designers, spa therapists and warehouse and retail assistants - and from May and June, temporary staff for the Christmas period.
Toby Fowlston, chief executive of recruitment giant Robert Walters, said the firm had "committed to hiring displaced Ukrainians into our own business and as a recruitment company we will also represent them as potential employees to our clients".
"We will need government support to help expedite working visas to ensure we can act quickly,” he added.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “This is exactly the kind of thing we appreciate — the generous British public offering to step up in this grave hour of need for our friends in Ukraine.”
HR leaders help relocate Ukraine workers
HR leaders across Europe have already stepped up to help employees based in Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict, with several announcing major relocation plans for staff and their families.
The world reacted with shock and anger following Russia’s armed invasion of its neighbouring state, prompting political and business leaders to take action, predominantly by cutting ties with Russian firms.
However, leaders within the people function also ramped up humanitarian efforts by helping civilians trapped in Ukraine, with a number of firms revealing how they specifically have been helping their workers.
Anthony Lamot, CEO of cloud marketing firm DESelect, revealed his company was helping its Ukrainian staff flee to the firm’s headquarters in Belgium.
“I would also suggest other business leaders to consider taking similar action”, Lamot said in a LinkedIn post, adding: “This is not about politics, this is about helping fellow humans.”
Similarly, Wix.com’s Talent Acquisition Leader Anthony Rodriguez posted that the web development company had already begun arranging several weeks ago to relocate its Ukrainian employees and their families who wanted to be flown out of the country “in preparation for what was to come.”
All travel and living expenses are being covered by Wix, Rodriguez added.