The CBI has launched a forum to help HR directors handle the complexity of cross-border placements and manage multinational teams in Europe.
It reflects the increasing consolidation with the single currency area. Many companies have a European HR policy, under which employees across the continent are treated alike.
A formal launch is to be held at a London conference with ECA International this week. There will be a dedicated web site within two months.
This is in advance of the long-awaited European Company Statute, which will give companies the ability to register only once for the continent. The statute is still on hold, but is expected to be passed within the next year. Company reorganisations are occurring despite the fact social security systems and many labour laws are still organised along national lines.
“One thing we are keen to do is provide CBI members with information on different countries’ tax, pension and social security systems. We get calls from people who have already sent someone and only then are they starting to look at these things,” said Thomas Hadley, senior policy officer at the CBI.
The European Commission plans to facilitate retention of pension rights as people move between countries. It also plans to pass legislation increasing the range of qualifications that are recognised across the continent. At the Lisbon summit in March it announced an EU qualification for basic IT skills.
Cultural and language issues can be formidable. The CBI says these are underestimated by British managers. “A lot of English people think English is the language of business and they do not need to bother. But if you want to be international and develop the company you need linguistic skills.”
Even small- and medium-sized companies have an international presence, and often need managers with an international perspective, said Hadley. “Mobility is part of career development,” he said.
European employment consultant Peter Reid said UK companies “should be able to see their natural catchment area as being the whole of the European Union, rather than be artificially restricted to the UK”. But he warned that employers face cultural inhibitions in encouraging people to move. “There are very few people in Europe who leave a small geographical area.”