Supporting People Seeking Asylum in the Workplace

In many ways, people seeking asylum are employees like any other, with the
same rights and the same workplace expectations placed on them.

Employing people seeking asylum is generally a very rewarding experience for
organisations. Although asylum seekers face many challenges in their lives,
most of these challenges do not impinge on their ability to maintain employment.

See what employers say about their experience of employing asylum seekers (pdf).

As with other employees, however, events may occur in their lives
that impact on their ability to work, or to perform to the best of
their abilities. Being aware of how to manage this possibility will help
you support people seeking asylum, and retain them in your workforce.

Because people seeking asylum often come from cultures where the relationship between an employer and an employee is highly hierarchical, and where feedback is neither given nor expected, it may take a while for them to get used to the management and communication norms in an Australian workplace.

The information below should help you tailor your management and communication style to this possibility.

  • Clear goal setting: when asking the new worker to complete a task or set of tasks, explain in simple terms what needs to be achieved and when. Ask for any questions. Write down tasks if needed.
  • Give as much control as possible over tasks: after you gain a good understanding of the worker’s abilities, empower them to take control of their duties. Remember that most people seeking asylum have a wealth of knowledge and work experience in their fields.
  • Give regular feedback on tasks given.
  • Set regular catch-up times.

In ASSET’s experience, most issues that arise between people seeking asylum and their managers are due to problems with communication. Here are some guidelines for good communication with asylum seeker employees:

  • Break tasks down into clear steps, and do not give too much information at once. Too much information, too soon, can make simple tasks seem overwhelming.
  • Consider the speed and clarity in which you speak, by slightly slowing down and pronouncing words as clearly as you can.
  • Ask questions to confirm understanding – this is an excellent tool to overcome language barriers. Ask follow up questions such as: “Can you please tell me what you understand from our conversation?”
  • Use plain English – avoid using jargon, acronyms and slang as much as possible, or take time to explain those terms.
  • Encourage ongoing communication through positive reinforcement. If asked a question by the worker, respond positively to encourage further communication.

Migration issues can be very complex, and it is better that you do not try to help with issues to do with legal hearings or applying for residency.

If you have any concerns, please contact the ASRC and we will provide information and support, and will liaise with your employee if they are an ASRC member.

Contact us

Melanie (Mel) Pitcher, Employer Partnerships Coordinator
Email: melanie.p@asrc.org.au                                                                                                                                                                                                   Ph: 03 8537 9500 / Mobile: 0407 683 529