How employers can support people living in temporary accommodation

This is one of the biggest barriers facing refugees who are trying to find meaningful employment. Here’s why, and how you can help.


Breaking Barriers

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Temporary accommodation includes hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, or other sites that the government and local authorities use to house people of a refugee background, such as barges and ex-military bases.

Living in temporary accommodation is a challenge when trying to apply for jobs or establish a career. How would you search for jobs, come across as professional in an interview or complete work to a high standard when you have dodgy wifi, no desk, perhaps no laptop, and are living in an over-crowded room, possibly with a complete stranger?

Bahaa gives a quick insight into his experience in this clip from our documentary ‘My (Refugee) Life’.

Temporary accommodation is not an issue that exclusively impacts people of a refugee background. With the cost-of-living crisis, spiralling rental costs, and homelessness on the rise, having the right support in place will benefit anyone in your organisation who is living in temporary accommodation.

We asked how living in temporary accommodation had impacted on people’s job search or career. Here’s a summary of the responses we received.

The challenges:

  • The wifi in the room is usually bad, so it’s hard to search for jobs or complete work to a high standard. It may not always be safe to use wifi in communal areas, depending on the other people living in the temporary accommodation.
  • While waiting for a decision on their asylum case, most people are not permitted to work, and rely on the government for an allowance to cover the cost of food, sanitation and clothing. (On average, the people we support wait three years for a decision). This leads to poverty, and even the cost of a bus trip to a library to access free wifi is out of reach.
  • There is an ever-present worry that you could be moved at any moment. People don’t have a choice about where they are housed, and so may be reluctant to apply for permanent or contract roles in case they are moved to another location in the UK at short notice.
  • There is a lack of privacy, with small rooms shared with partners, whole families or strangers. There’s no privacy for job interviews or meetings, and sometimes the bathroom is the only quiet or private place available.
  • People who have arrived in the UK with just the clothes on their back often don’t have access to a laptop or tablet to be able to edit their CV and create job applications.
  • Many reported having terrible sleep because of their rowdy neighbours, which affects their ability to get up or be their best selves at work.
  • There can be limited or no access to essentials like an iron for their clothes ahead of an interview, to make a good impression.
  • All of the above, combined with the trauma many have faced, can have a detrimental impact on mental health.

How employers can help:

  1. Support with travel costs to interviews if they are in person so that people don’t have to worry about how they will attend an interview or be stressed about the costs on the day.
  2. Be understanding that the candidate’s environment may not be private, could be loud or the internet connection could be weak, so accept them as they come or be flexible to offer an alternative date to speak.
  3. Offer a discretionary extension for applications or interviews. This may help candidates to access laptops and internet for their applications, or to apply for support to get new clothing or haircuts so that they can feel their best on the interview day.
  4. Be as flexible as possible with interview scheduling so that people can access buildings with public wifi, or choose a time when the room is likely to be quieter.
  5. Be imaginative with how people can answer interview questions – can they record answers and send them through, write their answers down, see questions in advance?
  6. Be flexible with working locations if possible. For example, offer remote working options if people have to leave their accommodation and are relocated to another region at short notice.
  7. Provide discretionary support with access to the internet for roles that involve working from home.
  8. If the role involves working from home, talk through ways that candidates can safely store any given devices.
  9. Once they receive their refugee status, people only have 28 days to find an income and a home before their support ends. This is often after years of not being allowed to work and living in poverty. To help, ensure that you have policies in place to support anyone who have to move accommodation quickly. Even better, offer discretionary leave and financial support to manage moving home such as advanced salary payments.
  10. Have robust policies and initiatives in place to support people with their mental health and wellbeing, and offer flexible working.
  11. Childcare vouchers are a lifeline for candidates or employees with children, so that they can dedicate more time to their career, or work from their accommodation with fewer distractions.

Next step

Inspired to change? Or do you have ideas and best practice that you could share with other businesses? Find out more about our Business Behind Refugees movement