How to bring your mobility policy up to speedduguech
The way we travel for work has changed. But many companies’ global mobility policies fail to take into account the new types of business travel – and this oversight can have serious consequences, both for the company and the individual travelers.
Business travel trends in 2018
Employees in 2018 view travel as an opportunity for personal development and learning, rather than seeing it as a mere obligation – in fact, researchers at Mercer found that 98% of millennials saw travel as a way to develop their career. The continued globalization of markets, coupled with employees’ increasing willingness to travel, have seen employers updating their mobility policies to be more flexible, and also relying more on short-term assignments and extended business trips.
We have also seen an increase in “virtual assignees” – employees who remain in their home country but make frequent business trips, during which time they perform the same activities as the relocated employees on the same assignment. Long-distance “commuting” is also on the rise – employees who maintain a principal residence in one country and travel to another on a weekly or monthly basis.
Risks to employers and employees
These new types of business travel may be highly beneficial to the bottom line, but many companies are neglecting to update their mobility policy to take them into account. As a result, extended business trips are falling under the radar of the mobility team, and employers are risking serious financial and legal consequences. For example, many mobility teams still rely on the 180 day limit as a rule of thumb – but fail to take into account factors like the frequency of visits, or number of days the employee spends in their country of origin, which could leave the employee and the employer open to fines, civil or even criminal charges.
One of the fallouts of the more laissez-faire attitude towards extended business trips and short-term assignments is the rise of the “accidental expat”. Employees sent on frequent extended business trips to the same location might find themselves in the awkward position of being classified as residents of the nation in question – even though their company’s mobility policy doesn’t actually cover them.
Employers who base their mobility policy on duration run the risk of serious breaches of compliance. For instance, if employees are signing contracts while on extended business trips, some nations consider that the employer in question has a taxable corporate presence – in essence, the company has opened a local branch by accident!
So what can companies do to bring their mobility policy up to date and accommodate the changing landscape of business travel?
1. Start by thinking holistically
To create a mobility policy that is both flexible and compliant, you need to make sure that the multiple departments involved in employee travel are closely aligned. Consider where the responsibility lies for organizing business trips – HR? Mobility? Line managers? At what point does it shift from one group to another. Be sure no trips are falling through the gaps because of grey areas.
2. Unify the data
In a similar vein, make sure that the tools and technology you use to handle travel planning are fully integrated. Who is tracking business travel? Is the data on business trips getting in front of the right pairs of eyes? Make sure you aren’t missing crucial information.
3. Train employees
Ensure that your mobility team is as informed about immigration compliance as they are about taxation. Train all employees to look out for potential red flags and common compliance breaches.
4. Prioritize duty of care
Your responsibility to the well-being and standard of living to your employees should be at the forefront of your mind when updating your mobility policy. This will not only reinforce a positive and productive corporate culture but also keep your policy on the right side of the law and make sure it remains sufficiently flexible, scalable and current.
So, what do you think? Does your company’s mobility policy take into account the changes in the way we travel for work in 2018? As a business traveler, have you ever had problems because something fell through the gaps?
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