How to do repatriation of an employee

When an employee gets an assignment to another country, they are gone for a long time. But what happens when they are ready to come back? You will need to repatriate them, and your work may be harder if the assignment is not finished yet. But don’t worry, we took the time to explain what you should consider when repatriating any employee.

What is repatriation?

Repatriation happens when an ex-pat employee returns to their home country. There are many reasons an employee might need or want to be repatriated, such as:

  • Natural end of the assignment
  • Early end of the assignment because of project completion or the fact that the employee is moving onto another important role
  • Early end of the assignment, because of assignment failure for reasons such as:
  • Cultural shock;
  • Family and relationship challenges;
  • Health problems;
  • Insufficient company support;
  • Burnout;

Repatriation is a complicated process because there are a lot of parties involved. It would be ideal if a one-stop shop could help you through the repatriation process, but alas, that is not the case. The best solution is to work with a company that has experience dealing with these types of situations.

How do you repatriate an employee?

Companies can repatriate an employee using a variety of methods. They can use a standard package to bring back the employee, guarantee certain benefits to ensure support, such as departure assistance and destination services upon return. Many companies will provide departure assistance, a household goods move, a smaller Miscellaneous Allowance than the assignee had on the way out and the flights home. There may be some temporary accommodation required in the home country if the assignee’s home is not ready for their return.  

The best repatriation services start at the beginning of the assignment. Work with HR business partners and senior management to ensure the best connections in the home country business.

It is important that companies put in the time and effort to repatriate employees to get them back on board. Here are a few things you should consider:

  1. Be prepared for reverse culture shock: if your employee was in another country for a while, it might be difficult to readjust to their home country too. One option is providing a few destination services, such as settling-in assistance, or cross-cultural training.
  2. Keep in touch with supervisors: the repatriated employee will be working with other people and managers, so it is important to understand how job progress is coming along, or if there are any signs of job challenges or discontent. Some employees come back with great experiences and greater responsibilities, so job dissatisfaction can occur, if it is deemed not challenging enough or having enough responsibility.
  3. Be transparent about compensation: regardless of what type of compensation you have chosen during the assignment, this will obviously change once the employee is home. Talk about all the possibilities with them, and if there is an perceived downgrade in pay, explain the situation as fast as possible.
  4. Ask for feedback: this one may seem obvious, but for the sake of all assignments, feedback(we include good feedback loops during the assignment as well) can improve your processes and particularly if an assignment failed, you would like to know what went wrong so you can improve processes from candidate selection through to assignment management. Take time to talk with your employee after they are home and settled in.
Repatriation happens when an employee needs to get home during an assignment.
Repatriation happens when an employee needs to get home during an assignment.

What to do to prevent repatriation loss?

To anticipate and prevent repatriation loss it is important to understand the cause of such an outcome. The most common causes include a sense of let-down after the responsibilities of an assignment, reverse culture shock and a sense of disconnection with the home office.

The best way to avoid losses with repatriation is by offering adequate support for your employee before and during their assignment. Being away may be difficult, but appropriate destination support, destination services and ongoing HR follow-up can make the experience the best possible.  

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