Hiring Ukrainian refugees in Belgium

Russia’s military aggression towards Ukraine has created a mass influx of displaced persons. In the meantime, Belgium has taken in many refugees. The question that many employers now have is whether they are allowed to simply hire a Ukrainian refugee if he or she wants to work.

Because Ukraine is not a member of the European Union or the European Economic Area, the Ukrainian refugees do not have free access to our job market. The Council of the European Union therefore adopted and published an implementing decision on 4 March 2022 to offer these individuals temporary protection whereby the right to work is granted to them at the same time (Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382).

The Implementing Decision grants temporary protection to Ukrainian nationals residing in Ukraine who have been displaced since 24 February 2022 as a result of the military invasion by Russian armed forces that began on that date. Temporary protection should also be granted to nationals of third countries other than Ukraine who have been displaced from Ukraine since 24 February 2022 and who were benefiting from refugee status or equivalent protection in Ukraine before 24 February 2022. In addition, temporary protection should also be introduced for family members of those persons whose families were in Ukraine and who were residing there at the time of the circumstances surrounding the mass influx of displaced persons.

The European Commission strongly recommended on 21 March 2022 that Member States extend temporary protection to persons who fled Ukraine not long before 24 February 2022 (for example, for work, studies, vacation, family visit, medical reasons, or other reasons). From an enquiry made by the Flemish Agentschap Integratie en Inburgering (the Agency for Integration and Citizenship Education), it seems Belgium will apply this also to persons who were already located in Belgium before 24 February 2022.

Furthermore, despite that this was not stipulated in the Implementing Decision, the European Commission encouraged Member States to grant temporary protection to nationals of third countries who resided legally in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 based on a valid permanent residence permit issued in accordance with Ukrainian law and who could not return in safe and sustainable circumstances to their country or region of origin. The European Commission clarifies in its communication what should be understood as “safe and sustainable circumstances.” It said that this must be examined based on the individual situation of the third-country national and may not be based solely on the general situation in the country of origin. The individuals themselves who must demonstrate why they cannot return.

In principle, the temporary protection is valid for a year. Depending on the decisions adopted by the European Union, the protection can be extended each time automatically by six months for a maximum of one year. If the need for temporary protection continues, it can be extended further up to one year.

If you wish to hire Ukrainian refugees, these persons must hold a valid Belgian residence permit. In particular, they must be able to present an Appendix 15 or an electronic A card that mentions “job market: unrestricted”. If they can present one of these documents, you can hire them.

In this regard, please note that it is important to not lose sight of the validity period of these residence documents. As soon as they become expired, you may no longer employ these individuals. Therefore, it is best that you include a clause in the employment contract regarding this to avoid any issues.

To work as a self-employed individual who is under temporary protection, the individual must indeed apply for a professional card according to the general rules.

Do you have any other questions about hiring foreign workers? Contact our Employment Law colleagues directly: Employment, labour and social security law – Monard Law

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