When you send an employee on an overseas assignment, things are bound to change back at the mothership while they’re gone. Even if the assignment isn’t lengthy, office dynamics shift any time people come and go. Add to that any broader company changes, and it can be difficult for an absent employee to feel connected to their old team back home.
This may not seem like a big deal, but one of the biggest challenges of an international assignment is making sure that your employee can be reincorporated back into their old home office and role. After investing in that employee for a global assignment and giving them an opportunity to grow, neither you nor the employee would be happy if they were unable to make it work back home.
So what can you do?
There are a number of ways to make sure your employee stays connected to the home office (technology, for one!), but a crucial benefit to your relocation program is home leave.
Home leave keeps those employees tied in to what’s going on with their peers and in the office, so that when that employee returns after working abroad, they don’t feel like a stranger in a strange land.
How should you structure your home visit benefit?
Of course this benefit will vary from company to company based on budget, culture and even distance of the assignment from the home office. Regardless, a good rule of thumb is one trip per year for long-term assignments. For short-term assignments, it might be one trip a quarter.
In a long-term assignment, the best practice for the majority of companies is not to take home leave for at least the first three months, with the final home leave visit at least six months before repatriation. It’s important to space out visits to get the most bang for your buck as well as provide the best networking times for the employee.
In terms of expenses, most companies pay airfare for the direct route to the home and back to the host country. Some companies will provide a lump sum payment based off benchmarks of average airfare. The lump sum payment is attractive to many, particularly millennials who are always looking for flexibility.
Single millennials, or really any employee with wanderlust, may not necessarily want to go home, preferring to travel in the host country or nearby. The lump sum option allows the assignee to go where they want. Your company may be fine with this, as it’s definitely an appealing benefit that could help win employees over to taking a global assignment. However, it’s also important to consider that using the benefit in this way ignores the original purpose of home visits: to keep the employee connected and ease repatriation woes.
Regardless of which route you go, make sure your policy is specific and lays out your expectations for the use of the home leave benefit. You may even want to consider looping in your global tax provider to advise on the most tax advantageous approach in developing your home leave benefit. You want expectations to match reality, especially in a global assignment full of new adventures and surprises.
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