- 13 minute read
- Last updated: 13th November 2019
Overseas deployments can carry many benefits for both the employer and employee alike. For the employee, there is the opportunity to develop professional and personal skills and experience in a new environment and culture, while for the employer, commercial objectives can be achieved by deploying an existing employee with required skills, expertise or knowledge. Yet international relocations typically present practical challenges and risks, requiring employers to take certain measures to help prepare the employee for their international move.
This article covers:
- Relocation policy for international moves
- Culture shock
- Support for the family with an international move
- The international move
- Repatriation after an international move
Your relocation company policy forms the guidelines of how to arrange an employee’s international move, including:
- Relocation package and assistance
- Employee visit to the new location
- Removals arrangement
- Accommodation arrangements
- School fees and arrangements
- Cost of living allowances
As with any company policy, having a relocation policy in place allows both the employer and the employee to know what to expect from the relocation process.
Even where the employee will relocate to a country that speaks the same language, the culture in that country is bound to be different to the culture at home. One of the easiest ways to ensure that the relocation will be a success is to help familiarise your employee with their new location.
Arrange a visit before an international move
Is it possible for the employee to visit the country they will move to before they relocate there? A brief visit will provide a first-hand experience of:
- What it is like to live in that country
- The neighbourhood they will live and work in
- Where the local facilities are, e.g. where they will shop for their food, schools for their children to attend, and where they will fuel their car
If this visit can be combined with time spent with their new manager and co-workers, it can also form part of the introduction period to their new position.
Educate your employee
Whether a visit is possible or not, you as an employer with an overseas branch already have valuable knowledge on that country that you can impart to your employee. Arrange an education session or provide information for your employee about the new country, including factors such as:
- The local area where they will live and work
- Which language, or languages, are spoken in that country
- Local customs, such as the perception of body language, hand gestures and clothing, or attitudes towards alcohol
- Local transport system, for instance, what side of the road do they drive on and the availability of public transport
- Local currency
- Religious customs
- Potential health issues, e.g. is it necessary to have certain jabs before entering the country?
You could include information on their new workplace, managers and colleagues, and how that branch operates.
Encourage your employee to do their own research
Encourage your employee to carry out their own research on the country they will move to. They could also join relevant expat forums to find out about the experience of other people who have moved to that country. Expat forums can also be an excellent way to make connections in their new neighbourhood before the actual move.
Learning a new language
If the move is to a country where a different language is spoken, it is always advised to learn that language before relocating, even if that is only on to a basic level.
You may wish to pay for the employee to learn the language, possibly including this in the relocation package.
Once the employee has relocated, any language skills they have already developed are sure to be supported and improved by interaction with locals in that country.
Are the laws in the country the employee will move to different to the UK, for instance, taxation or public behaviour?
Although you may encourage your employee to find this out for themselves, it is advised that you as an employer make yourself aware of any laws in the new country which may affect any of your employees who live and work there.
Keeping communication lines open
Once the employee has moved abroad, your responsibility for their well-being doesn’t come to an end.
The initial period of settling in may not go as speedily or well as hoped, or other issues may occur further down the line that cause upset and stress.
Ensure that the employee has a point of contact to discuss any worries or concerns with, whether these are work-related or caused by their attempts to fit in to their new location.
Having someone to go to for advice can make the difference between an employee successfully forging their new career path overseas or wasting the employer’s financial investment in them by resigning their overseas post and returning to the UK.
Providing a regular line of communication, whether formal or informal, can ensure that the employee doesn’t feel abandoned and that the overseas position continues to operate successfully.
The success of the international move doesn’t simply rely on the how well your employee will operate in their new position, but also on how their family will acclimatise to their new life overseas.
If your employee will be accompanied by family members, encourage them to consider how the international move will affect their family.
Will their spouse or partner work or not? Will they need to retrain to carry on in their current career? Will they need to search for new employment, or can they similarly relocate to work for their current employer overseas? Will their children attend school or some other educational institution? Would it be advantageous for the whole family to visit the country before the move and learn a new language?
Play an active role in providing material and opportunities to educate your employee’s family on what life will be like in the new country. You may even wish to include family members on your employee’s visit to the new country pre-move.
It may also be helpful to provide information on settling in, such as:
- Accommodation, e.g. accommodation search or provision of accommodation
- Banking and utilities
- Schools and education
- Job search
- Local facilities, e.g. food shopping and public transport
Provide a relocation package that clearly states what is included in the budgeted amount. It may be that the employee will arrange the move themselves, or you may arrange this for them in place of part of the relocation allowance.
Discuss with the employee exactly what the relocation package covers, for instance:
- The move itself
- Accompanying family and related arrangements
- Relocation allowance
- Accommodation and utilities
- School fees
- Car or other form of transport during their time overseas
- Health insurance
- Learning a new language
- Cost of flights, regular and emergency
- Cost of visas or other immigration documents
Where you are responsible for arranging the international move, research and arrange the move well in advance. 3 to 4 months is an advisable length of time.
It may be necessary to register your employee with the British Embassy branch local to their new location.
This is especially true where the international move has made it necessary for the employee to obtain a visa or other form of travel permission.
When an overseas placement comes to an end and the employee, and possibly their family, return to the UK, a similar approach should be taken.
Guard against reverse culture-shock
It might be assumed that returning to your home country and culture would be easy but that might not always be the case. For instance, where the employee has children who have been schooled overseas, returning to a British school or starting one for the first time could cause real problems and stress. Providing information on the British schooling system and which local schools the children could attend would be helpful. Encourage your employee to think how the return to the UK may affect them and their family and be available to provide information and help where required.
The move home
As with the original relocation package, you should make clear to the employee exactly what is included in the budgeted amount offered to cover their repatriation. Where your employee will arrange the move themselves, provide as much information as you can to help them. Where you are responsible for arranging the move, ensure you research and arrange the move to the UK in good time for the intended return date.
Life in the UK
What is your employee returning to? Do they own a home in the UK? Do they need to arrange rented accommodation? Help your employee and their family to settle back into life in the UK. This could take the form of assisting them in finding rented accommodation or educating them in changes to the law that may affect them.
Back to work
Where the employee will return to work in the UK, provide information on the organisation, their role, and any changes that have occurred during their time abroad. These could be:
- Changes to management and other roles
- Changes in management structure
- Changes to the employee’s role
- Changes to pay structures
- Changes in the organisation’s vision and future plans
- Changes in the organisation’s clients
Any such changes should be included in a welcome pack for the employee before they begin back at work.
DavidsonMorris are experienced global mobility specialists, with expertise in supporting employers with international moves. We understand the difficulties of relocating personnel overseas, and the need to balance cost control with ensuring employees and their families are sufficiently supported to ensure focus on the commercial aim of the relocation.
If you have a question or need advice on any aspect of relocating personnel overseas, contact us.