Global mobility: Duty of care always comes first
Many companies are moving towards more flexible mobility policies. Millennials demand flexibility; increased business travel and new types of assignment require it. But when overhauling your mobility policy, you must always put duty of care first – failing to do so could result in lawsuits, bad PR, and potentially harm to your employees or their loved ones.
Strictly speaking, duty of care simply refers to an employer’s responsibility for their employees’ safety, health and general well-being. However, when it comes to global mobility, duty of care can have a much wider scope.
Usually duty of care is considered to finish when the employee clocks off – however, when employees are on assignment, the boundary is blurred. Essentially, the employer bears the burden of duty of care for anything that happens to the employee that would not have occurred in their home country. Allowing too much flexibility can result in unforeseen and disastrous results.
For instance, companies may wish to show flexibility by allowing the employee to choose their own place of resident – but this could result in employees choosing unsafe neighborhoods out of ignorance or a wish to save money. Similarly, allowing employees to choose cash instead of benefits might result in employees lacking adequate health coverage.
The scope of duty of care may not only include the employee. If the family of an employee relocates or frequently visits the employee in an assignment location, the company may well be responsible for their safety also.
And safety isn’t the only issue to consider. Frequent relocation can have a major negative impact on employees’ long-term financial planning, for example. Companies can’t be held responsible for private financial decisions made by their employees – but they have a duty to inform, educate and try to reduce the negative impacts caused by relocations.
In conclusion, there is a real risk that when trying to make your global mobility policy more flexible, you may neglect your duty of care towards your employees. Make sure that policy flexibility is limited – for instance, it may be that policy needs to be stricter for moves to hardship locations, or when moving with family. Ensure that the minimum requirements are clearly established and communicated to all stakeholders, especially local HR. While some are predicting the death of mobility management in today’s globalized world, treading the fine line between flexibility and care means that clear, well-defined and current mobility policies are more necessary than ever.