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International employee relocation: How to draft a relocation policy

Without a proper plan, international employee relocation can prove prohibitively costly, and stressful for your staff. Learn how to maximise your global business potential with a foolproof international relocation policy.

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Workers who are willing and able to relocate abroad for employment, comprise a subsect of international business known as the ‘global mobile workforce.’ As of 2024, at least 42% of the world’s talent pool is believed to be globally mobile, with millennials accounting for around 75% of these workers.

Remote and international work affords employers - with a global outlook - myriad advantages over their competitors, from access to new markets and insight into diverse consumer trends, to a broadening of the talent pool and around-the-clock or asynchronous working.

But to exploit the benefits brought by international employee relocation, enterprises of all sizes must have in place a comprehensive, clear, compliant, and cost-effective global mobility strategy – at the core of which is a quality international relocation policy.

What is an international relocation policy?

An international relocation policy is designed to facilitate the relocation of your employees to new regions, offices, or countries, all while minimising the potential setbacks and challenges of the move to avoid inconveniencing the employee, and enabling them to continue their work uninterrupted.

An effective global relocation policy bakes in a certain degree of flexibility, to accommodate different challenges faced when relocating employees to different countries. At the same time, just as no two companies are the same nor are any two international employee relocation policies the same.

What you choose to include in your policy, as well as how you choose to implement it, is ultimately up to you, informed by the diverse requirements of your employees and their destination.

At the end of the day, a quality relocation policy should hold at its core the desire to support employees through every step of the move, so as to ensure their wellbeing, satisfaction, and retention – all of which can impact your workforce’s productivity and the company’s bottom line.

Exploring the purpose of a relocation policy

Before we discuss exactly what benefits to include in an international relocation policy, let us take a moment to consider the central aims your policy should seek to fulfil.

  • Define who is eligible: Your policy should make it clear to all employees in your company what the eligibility criteria is for accessing relocation benefits – i.e. do benefits differ depending on time served, role within the company, or relocation destination?
  • Define the benefits of relocation: An important but often overlooked part of any successful international relocation policy is its role in encouraging global mobility. A relocation policy should clearly outline the benefits employees can enjoy in putting themselves forward for relocation.
  • Define the support available: Of course, employees must also feel confident in the support available to them throughout the relocation process. A large part of your relocation policy should be dedicated to defining the support and benefits packages available to those who relocate.
  • Instruct on how to make a claim: Your policy should also provide relocating employees with clear instructions on how to claim benefits and financial support available and relevant to their relocation overseas.
  • Define the tax implications of relocation benefits: The financial assistance offered to relocating employees may come with various tax implications, depending on the laws of the tax authority governing your employee’s destination. As such, make sure to research and outline how tax in different countries will affect the benefits offered by your international relocation policy.
  • Establish employee rights: A relocation policy should also be legally watertight. For example, will employees lose their right to relocation benefits in the case of a dismissal or resignation? Will employees be obliged to pay back any financial support received if they decide to leave the company within a certain timeframe after relocating?
  • Outline limitations of the policy: If there are any other limitations of your international relocation policy, such as non-reimbursable expenses which you the employer will not cover, then these must be plainly stated within the relocation policy.

What to include in your international relocation policy: 10 key elements

Having identified the benefits of and purposes served by a comprehensive international employee relocation policy, we can move on to 10 of the most common and effective elements to consider including when drafting your own. A combination of these, tailored to your business’s and employees’ unique needs, will help you to better manage your global workforce.

1: Visas and immigration

One of the most administratively challenging and mentally stressful aspects of any international employee relocation is surely the paperwork. An effective corporate relocation policy should provide assistance to employees and their families in obtaining all necessary work permits and visas to facilitate their move abroad. Not only does this ensure legal compliance with the destination country’s labour and immigration laws, but also minimises the stress of relocating employees.

2: Travel

Another means of assisting your employees’ relocation is to cover their travel expenses, such as the costs of airfare, train fare, and taxis to and from the station or airport. You can decide in detail exactly which parts of an employee’s potential travel expenses your relocation policy will cover, as well as how employees will be expected to claim for reimbursement. You could of course choose instead to book all travel on your employees’ behalf – thus making the move not only more affordable for your employees, but also less of a hassle.

3: Accommodation

Once your employees arrive in a new country, they will need somewhere to live. Depending on the length of the relocation – which could be a short term of about six months, all the way up to permanent – your policy should indicate how the company will assist employees in finding accommodation, and for how long.

You may choose only to organise and pay for temporary accommodation until the relocated employee finds their own place to stay or can opt to pay for long-term accommodation. Again, these details are entirely at your discretion.

Regardless of what you decide to pay for, however, it is always important to offer assistance in finding accommodation on the other end.

4: Moving

Moving can be a logistical nightmare, not to mention expensive, especially when moving to a whole new country. Many employers choose to help streamline the moving process for their employees by covering the expenses of moving personal belongings and household goods abroad.

5: Community engagement

Moving to another country for work is one thing, but integrating into a new community is an entirely different kettle of fish. To help make the international relocation as smooth and rewarding for your employees as possible, consider how your relocation policy could help them better engage with their new community upon arrival.

6: Cultural and language training

Depending on the country you are relocating employees to, there may be both cultural and linguistic barriers to overcome if the employees are to feel comfortable and capable in their new workplace. Offering cultural training and language classes to relocating employees can help them become a more productive and permanent feature of their new environs, faster.

7: Family support

Employees with immediate family or dependents will want to know that their loved ones will be able to join them in their workplace relocation. Relocating spouses and children can be especially challenging, however, so a quality relocation policy should help the employee’s family find employment and education. You could potentially also extend some of the same benefits – such as language classes and cultural training – to family members to make their experience of the relocation as smooth as your employee’s.

8: Health insurance

Many countries around the world provide free healthcare and social care to all – such as the UK, Denmark, and France. However, this is not always the case, and in countries like the USA, for example, health insurance is required in order to make healthcare affordable for the average citizen. Your international relocation policy should outline health insurance plans you are prepared to offer, as well as the regions in which employees will be eligible for these plans.

9: Relocation stipend

It is almost a given that additional expenses will arise during the relocation – ones that cannot necessarily be predicted or budgeted for ahead of time. Offering a relocation stipend to cover these additional expenses can help to set your employees’ minds at ease.

10: Additional support measures

We’ve explored the most important elements to include when drafting your international employee relocation policy, but truthfully there is no end to the ways in which you can choose to assist and support your employees during the relocation process. Below is a non-exhaustive list of additional support measures you may choose to offer:

  • Providing a guide to getting to grips with each country an employee is being relocated to, including, for example, numbers for emergency services, car rental companies, childcare providers and more.
  • Providing employees time off upon arrival in the new country during which they can get acquainted with their new surroundings and settle into their new home before resuming work.
  • Introducing relocating employees to other team members or contacts you may have in their new country.
  • Conducting regular HR check-ins with relocated employees throughout the process and for a considerate amount of time afterwards (e.g.: six months to a year).

6 steps to designing a corporate relocation plan that works for both you and your employees

  1. Plan ahead: Take time to first research and outline the objectives of your international employee relocation policy, with distinctions made for the various different countries you have, or plan to expand into.
  2. Identify key players: Determine which people in which departments will take the lead on drafting your international relocation policy.
  3. Draft the framework of the policy: Before writing the details of your policy should come a broad framework which you can pass around to your key players for review.
  4. Write the policy using clear and direct language: Once ready to write that first draft, make sure to use concise and direct language. It is crucial that your policy clearly demonstrates to employees the benefits, challenges, and available support of any potential relocation.
  5. Seek feedback, review, and improve: Penultimately, we recommend passing your drafted corporate relocation policy amongst all key stakeholders, using their feedback to review and improve the document.
  6. Finalise the policy with sign-offs from every department: Make sure every department is on board with your policy and has signed off on it before putting it into practice.

How to maximise the effectiveness of your international relocation policy with Mauve

As you’ll have discovered, the importance of international relocation policies to the success of a global business cannot be understated. Moreover, the elements which go into creating these policies are numerous and may take very different forms depending on the company, the relocating employee, and the region to which the employee is moving.

To minimise risks of non-compliance with international tax and labour laws, whilst maximising the cost-effectiveness of your international relocation policy and the satisfaction of your employees, it is highly advisable to partner with a global business solutions partner.

Explore Mauve Group’s expertise in global relocation today, to discover how we could help you achieve your expansion goals, tomorrow.