What would you do if your employer asked you to relocate overseas? This blog offers some suggestions to employees – and some pointers for employers trying to anticipate employees’ questions.

  1. Are you the only candidate and how important is your role? What are the options for you within the UK business if you say ‘no’ to a move? Can someone else go instead? Will redundancy terms be offered and is keeping your current job an option? You’ll be in a stronger bargaining position if you are clear about your employer’s position - and an employer who anticipates those questions will be better placed to help the employee and reduce the risk of claims.
  2. What is the package? You will naturally ask about gross salary, but what is the package really worth to you? How about the impact of social security, tax, currency and cost of living? Could things change? There are plenty of things your employer could do to give you extra comfort. Most assignees will expect assistance with tax returns and immigration compliance as a minimum. Your employer could also offer you a contractual tax equalisation promise to cushion the impact of higher taxes, or allowances to offset higher rental or transitional costs. It may be worth drawing up a list of challenges, extra costs and potential solutions, in preparation for negotiation.
  3. What about your family? Perhaps you have children in school or a partner who works? What can be done to make the move work for them? Don’t forget to check basics like quality, availability and cost of housing and schools - and make sure you take account of any special health or immigration concerns. Once family challenges are clear, it is easier to identify potential solutions. For example, a temporary period of ‘international commuting’ may help reduce disruption to a child’s exams. (Employers should think carefully before agreeing to commuting or ‘virtual’ employment arrangements as this is not quite as simple as it might seem, and can be surprisingly expensive. For example, two jurisdictions may look for tax compliance etc.)
  4. What happens if things go wrong? At some point you are likely to want to move on. How will a period abroad affect your ability to secure your next role? What protection will you have if you are dismissed? What about your pension? It makes sense to look at your contract carefully to identify potential barriers such as post termination restrictive covenants and to assess the potential financial impact of termination. Will you have a long notice period? How would termination affect bonus? Will repatriation expenses be reimbursed at the end as well as relocation costs at the beginning?
  5. Are there other things to think about? There are usually factors beyond the contract that should be considered. Will leaving the UK now affect your (or family members’) freedom to return to work or education in the UK without additional immigration clearance? What would happen if you divorce, have a baby, get sick, inherit money or exercise share options whilst you are abroad? Often employers want to help but do not have enough personal information about employees to do so properly – and worry that making personal enquiries will trigger discrimination claims.

Many employers are unaware of potential solutions that have been tried and tested by generations of internationally mobile employees and specialist global mobility advisers. For example, cost of living data can easily be purchased from specialist providers if a cost of living allowance or ‘COLA’ is to be offered. A little bit of extra preparation upfront could help secure a better ‘deal’ for everyone.