It always surprises me just how many people I meet that have never even heard of employee relocation, let alone administered or benefited from it. Misunderstandings are common. A recent interlocutor thought it was about moving employees to a new work site from one that was closing down. To a degree, he was right, but that’s only part of the picture. And when I start talking about global mobility, people look at me, slightly puzzled, and say, “What, mobility scooters?” For the avoidance of doubt, we don’t do mobility scooters. Let’s have a quick look and find out what it’s all about.

Employee relocation or global mobility serves to transfer employees, their families, or entire departments of an organisation to a new location. As relocation is classed as an employee benefit, the relocation function is usually administered by an organisation’s HR department, with much of the hands on support outsourced to a relocation management company.

Organisations usually split their relocation function into two parts:

The desired outcomes of the two variants are identical – to move an employee from A to B in such a fashion that he or she is neither advantaged or disadvantaged – though the actual services offered in each scenario do differ slightly. Let’s have a look at that now:

Domestic Relocation

As it’s title suggests, this is all about relocating an employee (and family) within the same country, or, in the case of the United Kingdom, between any two of the four countries within the sovereign state. Domestic relocation in the UK is usually a permanent move and is focused around selling a home and buying in the new area. This stance is determined by the local market – in the UK, we are obsessed with home ownership, whereas in France, for example, the majority of people rent, so a domestic relocation programme in France would look different to that of the UK. Since the downturn of the housing market in the UK, “rent-to-rent” support became more popular but this never reached the volumes of home-owner support. Temporary moves – “assignments” or “secondments” – are common within the UK but they tend to follow the pattern of international moves as there is generally no need for home buying or selling elements.

Here is a list of typical elements that could be included in a domestic relocation package or policy.

  • Temporary accommodation
  • Orientation
  • Home search
  • School search
  • Tenancy management
  • Home marketing
  • Home purchase
  • Housing cost differential
  • Removals
  • Expense management

International Relocation

This is all about relocating an employee (and family) across a political border, moves between any two of the four countries of the United Kingdom excepted. International relocation tends to be assignment based, so employees will travel to another country for a fixed assignment duration and reside in a rental property rather than one they purchase – there is generally no selling or buying of property unless the international relocation is permanent.

Here is a list of typical elements that could be included in an international relocation package or policy.

  • Immigration
  • Temporary accommodation
  • Area information guides
  • Orientation
  • Home search
  • School search
  • Furniture & appliance rental
  • Moving
  • Tenancy management
  • Travel management
  • Expense management
  • Cultural training
  • Language training
  • Departure services

Many organisations also offer a range of benefits managed in-house, such as tax equalisation, cost-of-living allowances, hardship allowances, assignment bonuses but we shall look at these in more detail another time.

International transfers are generally more involved than domestic moves due to cultural, customary and language differences. This is where HR departments can find it useful to outsource their programmes to a relocation management company that has local, on-the-ground knowledge and experience to support the employee through the maze. Take a look at the blog about home finding in Paris to give you an idea of how difficult it can be for an employee without experience or the right support.

Why do organisations provide relocation support?

Employee relocation can be an expensive business so an organisation must have clear and valid reasons for providing relocation support. The four main reasons relocation programmes are in place are as follows:

  1. Lack of suitable and qualified resources in the destination / host location
  2. Management development programmes
  3. Increase knowledge transfer among other sites / subsidiaries
  4. Establish control and coordination of other sites / subsidiaries

Group moves have been excluded from this post intentionally as we shall look at these in more detail another time.

Celsium is a relocation management company, headquartered in the UK and providing relocation services globally to businesses relocating their employees.

A full suite of relocation services is offered to fulfill the requirements of businesses and relocating employees, both domestically within the UK, and internationally to and from any location: orientation, home search, tenancy management, departure services, temporary accommodation, marketing assistance, purchase assistance, housing cost differentials, school search, area information guides, cultural training, language training, furniture and appliance rental, immigration, moving, expense management, group move management, policy build and benchmark, recruitment and tax services.

Guest Blogger – Stuart Beaty – Celsium