Feature – Benefits for relocated staff

If you read nothing else, read this …

• Companies have become more cost conscious when dishing out perks to relocated staff. • Families matter, so try and include benefits to help the trailing family with settling in. If you don’t you could wreck the assignment. • Don’t forget practicalities like household goods

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The days of the Englishman abroad, whiling away the days in a mansion with ceiling fans, and wicker furniture are well and truly over. Now, most employees upping sticks at the behest of their employer must be content with a more modest package. Ian Payne, managing director of relocation specialists Cendant Mobility, says: "It used to be the case that if you took an assignment it would allow you to pay off your mortgage a bit quicker, because you were getting a nice cotton wool package of benefits while you were overseas and that reduced your outgoings considerably. These days organisations perform careful calculations leading to workers being kept, rather than them being enriched." Nevertheless, organisations have to offer some sort of carrot.

"There is still no question that you have to provide some form of reason to take an assignment," he adds. A six-month Parisian secondment might be no big headache for a single twenty-something, but a family uprooting to Russia long-term can be a real wrench. So which perks will lure workers overseas? According to a 2004 survey by Cedant Mobility, Emerging trends in global mobility, the most commonly offered benefits for assignees revolve around the practicalities: household goods shipment; help with tax compliance; and property management services.

Ruth Hickling, employment partner at law firm Stringer Saul, says there are two areas where research is vital: "You need to check the wording of your insurances, including healthcare insurance, and whether they still apply. You also need to look at pensions arrangements, whether the employee would still be able to pay into a pension scheme in the UK if that’s what they want to do." Cedant’s Payne also recommends doing your homework on motoring rules. "Check whether driving licences are valid. In China, organisations will often provide drivers – the legal system for accidents is pretty complex and companies prefer to avoid the potential for having their people locked up." Depending on the location, security staff and even bodyguards might be offered. In a country with an unfamiliar lingo, language lessons can be invaluable, says ValÈrie Kristiansen, president of the British European Association, an organisation that works Britons living in Denmark.

"Not being able to speak the language is a huge handicap. I would also suggest that the company gives cheap airfares home at regular intervals to help people settle in." She emphasises that employers should bear the accompanying spouse in mind and try and include them in any benefits offered. "If it’s a man getting a job and the wife comes with him she’s out on a limb," she says. Madeline Fox, director of relocation consultants Coppergate, adds: "More [organisations] are realising the importance of the whole family being happy." She says that employers should consider paying at least some of the any kids’ school fees. And with international schools, system [similarity] provides continuity."