Work help agreed for refugees

The modest number of refugees in Brighton and Hove may be given help to find work after an intervention by Green councillors last night (Thursday 11 July).

They asked council chiefs to explore ways to support the recruitment of refugees during a debate on Brighton and Hove City Council as an employer.

And they urged officials to work with community groups to identify and address barriers that refugees may face when applying for work with the council.

The move won cross-party backing at a meeting of the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee at Hove Town Hall.

Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, who put forward the proposals, said: “Many of the refugees who make their homes in Brighton and Hove are highly educated and experienced.

“However, due to the circumstances in which they left their home countries, they may find it more difficult to produce the documentation they need as evidence of their qualifications.

“I believe the amendment to the council’s employment procedures we put forward today will go some way to ensuring the council adopts a degree of flexibility when refugees are among the applicants for local council posts.

“This would also make the council more reflective of the community – as well as being an important way we can champion and uphold our city’s reputation as a welcoming (and) inclusive ‘City of Sanctuary’ for refugees.”

The move won praise from Councillor Daniel Yates, the former Labour leader of the council, who called it a “valuable contribution”.

He also praised the wider work of council finance director David Kuenssberg and Alison McManamon, head of human resources, on improving the council’s “employer offer”.

This was set out in a report entitled Our People Promise. It was aimed at dealing with some of the challenges flagged up by high sickness rates, staff recruitment and retention challenges in some areas and “an ageing workforce”.

There was also a need to improve relations with the trade unions, the report said.

The current dispute with GMB members at the Cityclean depot in Hollingdean and the threat of strike action underline the extent of the challenge.

The most recent staff survey suggested that more staff feel valued at work, grievances had reduced and sickness – although still high – had also reduced.

The average number of staff sickness days lost in 2018-19 was 10.08, down from 10.57 the year before and 11.05 in 2015-16. The current target is 9.7 days.

A quarter of staff off sick cited stress or mental health issues. Staff working in health and social care are the most likely to take time off because they are not well enough to work.

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