International assignments: Five steps to seconding an employee overseas

International assignments
REX/Georgie Gillard / Associated Newspapers

With more organisations seeking business opportunities abroad, international assignments are proving to be a convenient way to ensure that employees with the relevant skills and knowledge are in the right place at the right time.

There are many factors with which organisations considering an overseas assignment need to deal before the secondment. Below we set out some of the essential points:

1. Ensure employment documentation is in order

Where an employee will be seconded to another organisation (the “host” organisation) during the assignment, but will remain employed by the “home” organisation for the duration of the assignment, the home organisation should enter into a letter of assignment with the employee. This will set out the changes to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment while he or she is undertaking the assignment. Another document that global employers should consider putting in place is an international assignments policy, which should set out the organisation’s approach to international assignments.

2. Ensure employee is aware of changes to terms and conditions

Often there will be many changes to the employee’s terms and conditions while he or she is undertaking an international assignment, for example changes to salary and benefits. Some employees assume that they will be entitled to certain benefits or they may misunderstand the implications of the assignment. For example, the employee might assume that the employer will pay his or her children’s school fees and for private health insurance. To ensure there are no nasty surprises, it is important for the employee to be clear about the changes to his or her contract of employment, and the changes should be set out in the letter of assignment.

3. Consider immigration requirements early on

Obtaining immigration permission for an employee to live and undertake an assignment overseas can be a long process, and the success of the application may depend on various factors. The organisation should consider obtaining expert assistance with the immigration application. Making preparations early will help to ensure that the organisation can deal with any obstacles that arise and that the assignment can start as planned. Organisations may also need to help the employee with obtaining immigration permission for his or her family where they will be accompanying the employee on the assignment.

4. Consider tax implications

The tax and social security implications of an overseas assignment for the employer and employee may be complex. Employers should seek specialist advice on these issues, so that they are not surprised about the cost implications. They could also arrange for the employee to receive expert advice.

5. Ensure the employee is prepared

Undertaking an international assignment can be a great professional and personal experience for an employee. However, the success of an assignment is likely to depend on the extent to which the employee is prepared for what lies ahead. Helping the employee to prepare for the assignment, for example by providing the employee, and perhaps their family, with language and culture classes, can help to ensure that the employee knows what to expect and settles in to his or her new role more quickly.

One Response to International assignments: Five steps to seconding an employee overseas

  1. Barbara, London 19 Feb 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    I am so very pleased to see that Point 5 has made it onto the list. I am a cultural trainer and executive coach who delivers trainings to individuals, couples, groups and children who are moving abroad and/or being repatriated. The training is an integral part of the move. It no only delivers information about the country, city/town but informs client(s) what to expect when they arrive, assisting in the adjustment process. Happy home life, happy work life balance.