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Employee Mobility in an Uncertain Time

Liane Cheyne |
June 15, 2020

The ability to have a globally mobile workforce and relocate employees internationally is one of many areas COVID‑19 has had an impact on businesses around the world, with new assignments either canceled or indefinitely put on hold.

As countries move into new phases of their response to the pandemic, organizations will now need to consider the next steps for international assignments and how best to proceed in the weeks and months ahead. Whilst new international assignments will still be necessary, safety and practicality will be top of mind with a host of new factors to take into account.

  • Variations between different locations.

    As has been seen throughout the pandemic, countries have responded in different ways and at different times. This can also be extended to policies on immigration and travel, with many countries beginning to reopen borders. While an initial response might be to place all international assignments on hold, the opportunity exists to consider cases individually to mitigate business disruption. Concurrently, organizations will need to account for the potential for changes, should an assignee be impacted by the reinstatement of restrictions previously lifted in his/her host country. Having a comprehensive communication plan to address the “what if’s” is vital, helping both employers and assignees proceed with caution as we ease into the next normal.

  • Additional practical and logistical challenges.

    Where overseas assignments proceed there may be a range of additional difficulties during the moving process. These could include delays in visas being approved, quarantine periods on arrival, and new and unfamiliar social restrictions both in and out of the workplace. It will be important for organizations to be mindful of the potential impact on assignees under such circumstances. Examples include greater restrictions on freedoms in accordance with local guidance and possible difficulties with integrating into the host environment. Thought should be given to adjusting onboarding processes and increasing communication with assignees to provide the support needed for the assignment to be successful for the organization and the assignee.

  • Legal requirements.

    As requirements for legal compliance become more fluid, organizations may be faced with unanticipated delays and the need for additional documentation. For existing assignees, addressing issues associated with visa renewals and related gaps in employment authorization can take extra time. New assignees may be impacted by requirements to provide travel history and health records/screenings. By taking a proactive stance, anticipating the possibility of needing to comply with additional requirements, organizations can experience less disruption and instill greater confidence in the assignees being asked to relocate.

    Each of these should be reviewed in conjunction with the organization’s approach to duty of care and decisions made accordingly about whether or not to proceed with an overseas assignment. Whilst the situation remains uncertain and challenging, there are a range of resources available to help implement a successful global mobility program. Whether your organization is looking to relocate an employee for the first time, or restart global relocation activity, we can help.

    Please contact us to schedule a call or virtual meeting to explore options that will enable you and your employees to achieve your global mobility goals!

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