Currently, it feels like we can’t turn on the news without being faced with yet another event rocking the global stage. From political changes like Brexit, the growing rhetoric between the US and China to the Coronavirus pandemic, the world is shaping up to be very different from less than a decade ago.
These events have a profound impact on businesses, particularly those who operate internationally. Uncertainty in global markets affects share prices and leads to dramatic shifts in foreign exchange rates. Changing immigration rules are increasing the complexity of moving employees internationally and employing foreign nationals. Additionally, frequent updates to global tax compliance rules can prove costly to companies who are slow to react. Amid the unprecedented impact of the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a global mobility strategy has never been more important. Global Mobility (GM) teams have been responding to the challenge of bringing people home, dealing with displaced assignees and business travellers. In many ways the pandemic provided the opportunity for Global Mobility teams to demonstrate their role in the business in dealing with uncertainty. There are some simple steps that the GM team can take to prepare a business for volatility, and help to make sure employees are supported and safe wherever they are. It is advisable to follow the steps outlined below.
1. Work with providers to receive up-to-date information
Partner with trusted relocation, tax and immigration providers who can provide up-to-date and accurate information relevant to your business. This knowledge will help you better anticipate the potential business impact of events and formulate contingency plans to best keep your business on track.
External advisers will often be aware of and give their input to likely legislative changes before they are finalised and implemented, so keep an open dialogue about forthcoming changes. Your providers may also have mailing lists categorised by subject (e.g., immigration or international tax advice) so ensure you are signed-up to receive timely updates relevant to your business.
2. Communicate with the business
GM teams are more frequently perceived by businesses not just as an operational department but as an important strategic partner. Open communication across the business is key to the GM team’s ability to provide relevant information to key stakeholders. By anticipating major changes that can adversely impact the business, the GM team can help to effectively mitigate and avoid potential issues.
For example, if the business communicates to their GM team that India is an area of growth and they plan to send 30 employees on international assignments over the next 12 months, the GM team can manage expectations with regards to immigration, tax related costs, and provide updates around the frequently-changing requirements in India which may impact business readiness.
3. Communicate with employees
The GM team can work with the business and external advisers to develop a communications plan to update affected employees in a timely manner. These communications should address how the company is reacting to the update (i.e., the policy), what support the company will provide for relevant employees, and who to contact should they have any further questions.
For example, if an event leads to foreign exchange movement that devalues the net income of employees on assignment to a specific country, the Global Mobility team can work with the business on their position, inform the employees that the company has acknowledged the change in their remuneration, outline the steps advised by the company to minimise the impact of this change, and highlight who to contact for further information if required.
4. Create well documented processes
A well-documented immigration, relocation or tax compliance process enables you to effectively manage the expectations of both the business and employees and provide a well-governed and executed global mobility experience. Having a well-documented process also means it can be easily updated to model and prepare for any changes.
For example, if a last-minute update to the immigration process is anticipated to lengthen the time taken to get an individual on the ground the GM team can work with immigration providers to model how this might work in practice, communicate the extra time requirements to the business and, where possible, ensure candidates fulfil any additional criteria during the initial selection process.
5. Utilise data analytics
Using the data already held by the Global Mobility team and maintaining up to date records which are compliant with GDPR requirements can help a business understand where employees are, and anticipate which individuals might be impacted by a sudden issue. Key reference points include: nationality, issuing country of passport, location, age, job title, and assignment start and anticipated end date, where relevant.
For example, if a country issues a new law making it difficult for individuals of a particular nationality to re-enter the country the Global Mobility team can quickly create a report showing all employees working in that country with the particular nationality so appropriate action may be taken by the business.
How can we help?
Our global mobility team has a wealth of technical knowledge and general industry practice experience. We can help you design, implement, and operate effective a global mobility programme that support your business objectives and your people. Please contact Bina Gayadien at Bina.Gayadien@abbisscadres.com for more information or see our global mobility brochure for more details.
About the Author – Bina Gayadien, Partner
Bina has a Masters in Tax Law from the State University of Leiden in the Netherlands, with a speciality in cross-border workers.
Her 15 plus years of experience of tax consulting and compliance in the UK and internationally, enables Bina to provide innovative and commercial advice to corporate clients, who expect a first class service.
Bina has held various positions and most recently worked as Senior Manager of Global Employer Services at Deloitte.
Bina has significant experience advising clients, across many industries, on complex tax, social security, compliance, and payroll issues. She also has notable expertise in advising on cross-border planning, liaising as appropriate with clients’ internal HR, finance and payroll functions.