Global mobility duty of care – when mobility benefits are more than just perks
Jodi Harris, solutions consultant at MOVE Guides, examines the complex case of duty of care in the global mobility world and highlights the considerations and potential exposures that may not be obvious but must be remembered.
Safety vs well-beingFirstly, there’s the definition of ‘safety’ and ‘well-being’, and determining what measures are needed to proactively prevent risks. Safety can mean anything from having a plan to evacuate employees and their families in the event of political instability to ensuring that employee personal data is secure when being distributed to vendors to support the move.Well-being, on the other hand, is a little harder to define. Relocating is a stressful period, and the industry is rife with tales of failed moves, tearful spouses and children who are not adjusting to their new location. It’s arguable that taking every action to prevent the disruption and stress to the employee and their family also falls within the scope of the company’s duty of care.
Company obligationsSecondly, there’s the scope of the company’s obligations. Obviously, the employee themselves is within the scope of the obligations, but what about the employee’s family? As soon as any part of the employee’s move or assignment package includes support for the accompanying family – as little as a flight for a spouse or assistance in obtaining a dependent visa – the family’s move is being ‘supported’ by the company and the company is responsible for the family’s safety and well-being throughout the assignment or the relocation period.
Legal, ethical and customary requirementsThirdly, there’s the blurred line between legal, ethical and customary requirements, both in the home and host locations:
- Legally, companies are not only tied to providing the level of care imposed by legislation but also that under common law and case law precedent. Every company should work with a legal advisor to determine their obligations in their countries of operation, as these can change significantly from country to country and shift rapidly with events such as changes in political situations or even seasons of the year.
- Duty of care also encompasses an ‘ethical’ aspect, dependent on the cultural and social expectations of both the origin and destination countries – with ethical duty of care, it’s not only about what’s right from a moral sense, but also about what is commonly expected, and may change depending on current world events. It could be said that, when an employee is offered an assignment to a new location, there is a common expectation that they will be supported in getting to and from the new location and provided with a certain level of support during the assignment. This is interlacing duty of care with your mobility policy and actually creating exposure for the company based on the support offered under policy.
- Your company’s risk profile and corporate culture can also play a role in defining duty of care, looking at whether you are focused on the legal requirements, ethical expectations, or a combination of both. Your wider corporate culture – how you support your local employees, your approach to working conditions, focus on employee well-being – can set precedent and expectations for the level of support needed when moving or assigning employees.
Proactively addressing duty of careWhen you are thinking about measures you can take to proactively address duty of care for your mobile employees, you may need to think outside of the box – beyond just ensuring basic personal safety – and consider everything from:
- Providing the employee with the support of vendors to help them through the move, giving them a safe, secure supply chain to minimise stress whilst ensuring employees don’t put themselves at risk by choosing unsafe vendors
- Ensuring safety of personal information falls under the employer’s duty of care obligations. For example, show your employees’ personal data is shared with your vendors and utilised
- Ensuring your benefits package includes the core components that employees are going to need to alleviate stress and keep the employee safe, including small nuances such as winter driving courses for employees moving to cold climates for the first time
- Providing the employee and their family with adequate medical and other insurances for their time in the host location, based on home and host location laws, customs and expectations
- Having a well-planned emergency response plan to support employees through anything from natural disasters to political instability or terrorist attacks
- Ensuring that your budgets and spend limits are structured to allow employees to make safe choices for themselves and their families. For example, placing a flat USD 200 per night limit on temporary accommodation may be fine for a single employee, but for a family of four will result in the employee potentially living in an unsafe or undesirable situation