Managing Mobility Costs and Compliance

Mobility Costs and Compliance


The challenging economic environment has put pressure on businesses to explore new ways of facilitating overseas assignments with reduced mobility costs.

Global mobility teams have been tasked with lowering their costs, just as other organisational functions have. But they have to do this while maintaining standards such as immigration compliance, and continuing to derive value from their mobility programmes.

After allowances have been slashed and packages squeezed, where do you go next? Where else can mobility costs savings be made sensibly and commercially?

How can businesses ensure operational compliance while driving down mobility costs and enhancing the value of their global mobility programmes?

Be strategic

The role of mobility within global businesses has gone beyond the tactical, and is now a recognised strategic contributor. Any fundamental review of mobility costs should similarly be undertaken by looking at the programme as a whole, and on a strategic basis, rather than focusing on small-scale, piecemeal savings.

Look at your processes, set-up, systems, the types of mobility and assignments you are using; do these all meet the current and future needs of the business? Are they helping you to mitigate compliance risks? If not, what can be done to realign them? In doing so, you should arrive at more cost and time efficient solutions that are focused on adding value to your organisation’s aims.

For example, many businesses are moving away from the regional model to centralise their mobility operation. This brings cost benefits of economies of scale while enhancing control and compliance risk mitigation.

Other organisations are redrafting their entire approach to mobility to provide a more flexible framework for the organisation, that is more fluid and adaptable to changes in strategy and business need.

This includes adoption of different types of mobility, which are emerging primarily due to employers’ needs to drive down mobility costs without impacting on compliance, operations or competitive advantage – in relation to both talent attraction and commercial proposition.

Plan, budget, analyse

To achieve mobility costs control, organisations should operate basic cost management processes, for example logging expenses and undertaking cost projections. Budgeting is important but you’ll always need to factor in contingencies such as temporary accommodation and fast-tack processing.

If you are open to adopting a more flexible approach to mobility by, for example, utilising different types of assignment, you will need some form of criteria and a consistent selection process to establish which type of assignment best fits a particular business need. A cost benefit analysis is helpful as a paper exercise to compare mobility costs of assignments and their potential value in satisfying the business need. You’re looking to move away from relying on ‘ball park’ figures and build credibility for making more informed decisions based on specific scenarios and calculations.

Carry out regular internal audits

You want to prevent problems arising; they’re unexpected drains on cost, and usually avoidable.

A smart way to avoid compliance issues arising in the first place is by auditing your internal mobility policies, processes and procedures at least every two years. They need to be maintained regularly, kept up to date and amended in line with new rules or interpretations.

While there is an on-cost attributable to being vigilant, it is far outweighed by the unpredictable costs associated with resolving live issues, when under considerable pressure and cost is not the immediate concern.

Spread the word internally

The biggest source of commercial value of global mobility is enabling employees to do their job wherever they need to do it – without being overwhelmed by paperwork or other demands relating to the logistics of their assignment.

But as more employees become mobile, it raises the need for the workforce to be updated regularly of their responsibilities in managing costs and ensuring compliance.

Educate personnel about the value of global mobility and the expertise that is available to them. Employees will feel supported and importantly, that they have one less headache to worry about. Creating an engaged workforce will positively impact on mobility costs by helping to mitigate the risks of non-compliance.

Measure and show value

The aim for mobility experts is to steer the conversation toward value, not just cost. While cost tracking and measurement provides helpful financial insight, there are broader, organisation-wide returns that should be captured and shared internally.

Immigration compliance practices offer considerable scope for measurement, and there is clearly value to the business of avoiding non-compliance and the resulting consequences – civil penalties, operational difficulties, reputational harm.

Tracking post-assignment movement of employees also offers insight into the return on investment of the assignments themselves, and more – such as the success (or otherwise) of your talent retention efforts and repatriation processes. For example, tracking the rate or path of progression of returning employees. If you are seeing a high proportion of employees leaving the organisation shortly after a return from overseas assignment, you may have a problem with your repatriation strategy. It’s something most organisations seek to avoid, as you are essentially investing in personnel who then take that enhanced experience and multi-cultural insight elsewhere.

To resonate, measures of evaluation should be aligned to the organisation’s needs, and will require collaboration with other departments to provide credibility and impact from a cross-functional perspective.

Seeking investment approval for new systems to enable data capture and analysis is without doubt a substantial challenge in most organisations, with internal competition rife for a slice of a constricting budget. Mobility teams should be positioning their business case around measures that can be utilised for strategic insight for the organisation to identity areas of value.

And finally – while the FD may not agree – remember there’s more to mobility than the numbers. It’s a people business; emotive, individual, unpredictable, human. Don’t overlook this. From a value perspective, it can be as simple as seeking feedback via satisfaction surveys to evaluate performance or morale or to gain insight into wider identified measures.

If you have a query about global mobility or immigration compliance, please get in touch.



Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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