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There have always been relocation considerations related to an employer’s “duty of care.” However, duty of care has become super-sized during COVID, and it behooves HR’s to look at 5 key aspects of their relocation practices
- Interview your relocation management company – Pssst. It is different if you are a low mobility account.
Relocation management companies have dealt with the lower mobility numbers in a variety of ways. Lay-offs/furloughs have been necessary. There is nothing to judge here – it is a simple fact of the lower relocation volumes. But you do have the right to ask your Relocation Management Company what their current Relocation Consultant caseload is now and what it was before COVID (caseloads should be lower now, because the workload is higher (see my article on relocation companies having greater workload here)). How are their employees being supported on the job? What about the ability to callback talent if business picks up: were the employees fired or just temporarily laid off? Do they have a back-to-normal business plan? You will want to understand how your employees are being handled at such a difficult time to relocate, and caseload is key to this.
These are reasonable questions, but the questions continue if you are a low mobility account. Large Relocation Management Companies can tend to keep their key account Relocation Consultants that work on high volume relocation accounts, and in times like this, let go of their low volume Relocation Consultants. Why does this matter? It matters a lot because Relocation Consultants associated with high volume key accounts tick very differently than those used to dealing with multiple clients and programs and employers that only relocate a few people each year. The high volume Relocation Consultants tend to be less flexible, and work with a belief that everyone relocates close to the same way, but that may not be the case for you. In a past life, I worked at a relocation company that had the federal government and for that account there were many excellent relocation consultants. When federal government volumes dropped, some of these were deployed to lower volume accounts – and many of these well-regarded relocation consultants, could not handle lower volume accounts. The constant shifting between different practices and policies did not fit with their concept of a relocation, and service suffered. If you have lost your Relocation Consultant to a COVID layoff and you are a low mobility account, you should check to see what types of accounts (2019 volumes?) your new Relocation Consultant typically worked on before COVID. These two “types” of Relocation Consultants most definitely do not share the same skill sets.
2. Now that you understand how your RMC is operating -how is their supply network operating?
If you are with a Relocation Management Company you should be able to ask how those downstream supply chain vendors are managing during COVID. What about movers and destination service providers who are in direct contact with your employees? Are they equipped with PPE and do they sanitize their vehicles after each service? How is a new home or temporary housing sanitized? Are additional services offered to support the well-being of the relocating employee and what are these? Do not be afraid to ask questions and then ask for details. You chose a Relocation Management Company to work with, and as part of this, they take on the role of supplier manager. They should be able to answer these questions for you easily. This is a duty of care issue for sure.
3. A Focus on Destination Service providers to Protect Employees
When an employee relocates, he or she has direct contact with many different people and businesses throughout the process. Employee relocation supplier networks are adapting and innovating to keep everyone safe – and few more than Destination Service Providers.
Your relocation company should be able to answer how personal contact is minimized during a destination service and if a relocating employee prefers no person to person contact how is that being handled? As a Relocation Management Company and a Destination Service Provider, All Points has undertaken a great deal of work to ensure that personal exposure is minimized. We offer virtual home finding services for those that wish no contact; we visit properties with a Facetime application for those who want to select a property during their isolation period. How are properties being physically visited. What is happening at government offices? We have to take all these things into consideration, to make sure that employees and their families feel safe with the service we deliver.
4. You can’t be on top of your Immigration and tax enough!
Changes in immigration requirements and eligibility are occurring at a fast pace today. Updates come fast and furious and even if there is no a policy announcement, there can be practical differences in enforcement from previous months, as governments feel a little more secure with international travel. It is important to stay on top of current updates that could affect your employees.
Pssst: If you have people stranded somewhere or people who have had to repatriate, but are still technically on assignment, ask your tax provider if there are any tax consequences to any actions that you have taken to assist these individuals.
5. Re-evaluate “Naked” Lump-Sum Relocations
What do I mean by a “Naked” Lump Sum? I mean a Capped Allowance amount or a Lump Sum amount is being offered for a relocation, and there is no other relocation assistance. This flies in the face of any notion of duty of care. The employee is on their own to manage their own relocation. Now is the time to support employees more, so if you have “Naked” lump sum policies, now is the time to add some form of support, be it from a relocation management company or from a Destination Services company, where they may not have been there before. Or, reduce the lump sum and mix it with a defined benefit household goods move, with a trusted mover or one that is managed by a relocation management company; one with whom you can be confident that they disinfected their vehicles after each use, to best protect your employee’s health.
You see…what isn’t said in the paragraph above is that employees are more nervous, have more questions and are experiencing greater complexity in their relocation than ever before. Give them the professional guidance they need, and make sure your Relocation Management Company or Destination Services provider or trusted Mover is the one to give them that guidance.
If you take all of these steps into account, you can be sure that your relocations are going to be dealt with professionally, supported well throughout the relocation process, expert guidance is going to be there, and your employees will remain safe and healthy throughout the process.