Deploying personnel overseas carries substantial risk, across a number of areas.
If the worst were to happen, and a crisis or disaster were to affect your international workers, how would your organisation respond?
Employers operating globally-mobile workforces must be prepared.
The safety and well-being of your personnel are paramount. The speed and impact of your actions will come under considerable stakeholder scrutiny in the aftermath. Reputations are at stake.
This necessitates a robust crisis and disaster response procedure that specifically underpins your global mobility programme.
Crisis planning has to go beyond communications. There are specific risks and issues presented by international working which should be addressed when managing a crisis.
Mobility in times of crisis
Natural disasters, terrorist incidents, disease, civil unrest and violence; the list continues.
A crisis response plan should account for possible scenarios and clarify what is required, both of employees and you as the employer, to help minimise delay, maximise effectiveness and provide some cost control in the event of a crisis.
Taking a global approach, as opposed to region by region or country by country, to compliance provides greater scope for efficiencies and consistencies – particularly in a time of crisis when every second matters.
When devising your plan, there are a number of factors specifically affecting global mobility to take into consideration:
The security and safety of your employees is of primary importance. For the worst case scenario, you need to plan evacuation procedures.
You need to be armed with facts. Who is currently present in the affected area? Do you have an up to date record of all employees in the region? This includes all types of workers – assignees, local staff, permanent relocations.
A key area of risk here are business travellers. It is common for business travellers on short stay visits not to make relevant internal functions aware of their trip, often a genuine oversight. As an area of risk however employers should take proactive steps to reduce the potential risks presented by business travelling employees.
Also to be determined in advance is who will be covered by any evacuation? Assignees, dependants, local employees, business travellers, those on permanent relocation?
Complications can arise in relation to spouses or partners met by employees while on assignment – are they covered by your policy? This may give rise to immigration compliance issues as you need to ascertain the immigration status of partners or spouses, and their eligibility for any necessary emergency visas or permits.
You will also need to determine the nature of the evacuation, whether this will be to repatriate or to move to a nearby safe location? From an immigration compliance perspective, your approach will dictate the support required to secure emergency visas and entry clearance to move those affected.
As well as the nature of the crisis, your response to a crisis will be heavily influenced by the country/ies involved.
Factors such as the local environment, infrastructure, political climate. For example, emerging economies may operate relatively poor emergency response services requiring more from employer support and assurance to safeguard the safety and security of personnel.
The location will also influence decisions around evacuation and/repatriation of personnel. Are there nearby safe locations? Can emergency visas be secured for those affected?
Liaison with local embassies, relevant authorities and diplomatic services will be crucial, ensuring you are aware of their latest advice and any directions that are issued. Who will take the lead on this from your organisation?
Assembling the right team in the time of a crisis is critical. In a crisis affecting international workers, ensure you have ready access to immigration specialists to advise on and handle the relevant procedural requirements, and navigate local immigration rules, that will enable you to quickly move your personnel to safety.
For maximum efficiency, this will require knowledge of your global mobility programme – for example where to access required information relating to employees’ immigration status.
How to Take Control in an Overseas Crisis
Employees will rely on you as their employer in the event of an emergency.
They will rely on your local knowledge, your network of contacts, your infrastructure. Here are a few ways to ensure your mobility programme can support in times of crisis:
- Pre-assignment training – prepare assignees for scenarios and incidents while abroad. Clarify what is required and expected of the individual, and likewise of the organisation.
- Policies, processes, procedures – be prepared, keep them up to date, stress-test them.
- Data and knowledge – enable effective decision-making, particularly in times of crisis when time is short. Mobility process automation and systems integration support effective risk management through data capture and sharing. You want data to hand in times of crisis.
- Consistency – however you approach global mobility – centralised, decentralised – there will be a need across all regional branches for consistency in understanding and application of your crisis response protocol, to avoid confusion, delays, oversights or mistakes.
Crisis management is a huge area of risk for organisations. For those responsible for an international workforce, the task is immense.
As part of your crisis planning, ensuring you have given sufficient consideration to mobility and compliance issues will help to ensure a swift and effective response in a crisis.
We are experienced advisers on all areas of global mobility strategy, compliance and business immigration. If you have a specific query about immigration compliance in a crisis, please get in touch.