Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia were once high on the list of destinations for mobile employees. But recent world events have shown no destination is immune from unexpected calamity. So how do you balance employees' welfare with business necessity? By David Morgan and Christine Jenner
Until recently, many young professionals, especially those employed in law or accountancy, looked on a posting to Hong Kong as a magnificent opportunity to widen their horizons and take several steps up the career ladder at the same time.
In recent months, however, such an opening has, no doubt, seemed somewhat less attractive as a result of the spread of the potentially fatal SARS virus in South East Asia.
SARS has also contributed to an issue of growing significance in a global economy where recruitment and employment opportunities increasingly cross all five continents: where do an employer and his employee stand when the latter is posted to a part of the world that no longer appears to be as 'safe' as it used to be?
In terms of overall fatalities, the threat posed by SARS seemed miniscule. Yet the unknown nature of the virus - compounded by 'doomsday'-type images on our television screens - was sure to make people think harder about a posting to Hong Kong or Singapore, especially if the move involved family.
Saudi Arabia is another country which, until recently, was popular with Brits, thanks to its low living costs and enviable climate. Although a strict Islamic state and not a free-market economy like Hong Kong, Saudi used to be thought of as perfectly safe for Westerners, as long as they showed due respect for the nation's culture. That all changed with the emergence of Osama bin Laden, the Iraq War and last month's fatal terrorist bombing of an expat compound in Riyadh.
Nigeria has not been thought of as particularly dangerous either. Nevertheless, just a fortnight before the Saudi attack, we learned that British and other Western oil company employees had been taken hostage by local workers after a pay dispute got out of hand.
Some British employers have no alternative but to post specialist workers to parts of the world that might be deemed medium- to high-risk in terms of personal safety. But recent events show that even the most unlikely locations are not immune to the consequences of unexpected events.
Employers with foreign interests should therefore consider reviewing t