Rethinking recruitment to open doors for refugees

Post author image. Charlotte Gibb
This Refugee Week Charlotte Gibb, Campaign Manager, Employment and Skills at Business in the Community (BITC), sets out how businesses can make their recruitment more inclusive, ensuring no one gets locked out of employment.

The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is ‘healing,’ a celebration of community, mutual care and the human ability to start again. For many refugees, finding meaningful employment is a key part of starting again and integrating into life in the UK. However, refugees are four times more likely to be unemployed than UK jobseekers.1 One in five refugees underutilises their skills at work2.

There are multiple factors that contribute to this disparity, including English language training provision, personal trauma and delays in gaining the right to work. However, employment practices also play a significant role.

Barriers to recruiting refugees

Consider some of the standard approaches often used in recruitment. Placing too much emphasis on recent experience, rather than focusing on skills, will mean your jobs are not accessible to a refugee who has been waiting for three years for the right to work. Similarly, having stringent requirements around qualifications could exclude a refugee with relevant and transferable qualifications from their country of origin. Requiring education to degree level when it is not necessary for a role could mean your business misses out on a talented young person whose education has been disrupted due to resettlement.

Opening doors to inclusive recruitment

These and other age-old recruitment practices that are intended to help businesses find the right candidates, are instead shutting diverse talent out. Business in the Community’s (BITC) Opening Doors: inclusive recruitment campaign aims to change this, by challenging the way businesses recruit. Our ambition is to mobilise businesses to make 2 million jobs more inclusive by 2025. Since its launch earlier this year, the campaign has gained support from businesses including Asda, Burges Salmon and Thames Water. All have committed to doing things differently.

To become an Opening Doors: inclusive recruitment employer businesses must commit to taking action to make their jobs more accessible and inclusive. These actions have been informed through consultation with our members and inspired by stories of impact. These include examples such as Deloitte’s Careers Conversation programme which works with refugees to provide support and advice, build skills, and create new pathways to employment, as well as BITC members participating in our job coaching initiative.

Next steps

disadvantaged groups


  1. Zovanga Kone, Isabel Ruiz and Carlos Vargas-Silva, (2019) Refugees and the UK labour market, COMPAS, University of Oxford.
  2. Breaking Barriers (n.d) The Refugee Employment Crisis: Barriers To Employment.