Moore Kingston Smith monitors evolving global mobility landscape

15 December 2020 / Insight posted in Articles

There has already been clear evidence of a shift towards more flexible forms of cross-border working across the world over the last few years. The crisis brought about an overnight transformation and accelerated these trends to extreme levels. Our global mobility team has been closely monitoring the constant evolution of these changes by conducting a range of market research including surveys and peer group discussions with HR and Global mobility specialists.

An unsurprising acknowledgement is that it is too early to make extensive changes to global mobility policies and processes. It is simply impossible to reach definitive conclusions on how the long-term effects of shifts in how we work will affect international employment arrangements. There are however many things companies should be considering.

There is still a lot of uncertainty around international remote working, and the cross-border management of remote employees seems to be one of the biggest challenges companies are facing. Reflecting on why a business has internationally mobile people and how they structure them, when so much is changing rapidly, should be a fundamental part of a business risk assessment and will be expensive if it is ignored.

Many businesses are looking at reviewing and developing guidelines linked to international employment risks. There are varying disciplines they need to consider which can easily be missed in a large assessment of this kind. The guidelines should be discussed with a broad cross-section of the business including corporate tax, employment tax, legal, immigration and HR, and address a long list of subjects including health, safety and well-being, data protection and confidentiality. As well as incorporating all of these aspects, it will also need to take account of cross-border differences, which causes further challenges. Businesses are beginning to look at a more refined approach to international employment risk assessment in order to make more informed assessments of whether the risk is too high.

In particular, companies faced a number of regulatory and compliance risks during the first wave of the pandemic, which lead to an increased focus on the impact of risks associated with employee wellbeing, personal development, and productivity.

Data protection has also been a new emerging criteria appearing in discussions on the future of global mobility risk. This will be crucial if you have employees scattered over a number of countries and with increasing data protection laws. You must have the legal right to transmit data in the country your employees are working, and any potential changes post-Brexit need to be considered. For example, some businesses in the insurance industry have been recalling people to the office partly because of concerns about data protection and confidentiality when processing claims. This needs to be looked at and added to the business case risk issues. Historically assignment risk assessments have tended to be cost-focused but the importance of data protection brings a new emerging aspect.

There is a need for wider considerations on business decisions around mobile employees, which includes business needs, succession and talent pipeline. These areas need to be more forward-looking but companies are still focusing on the immediate impacts from Coronavirus. As we begin to recover from the pandemic, companies will still have to be prepared for what is next in these areas.

Moore Kingston Smith will continue to monitor the evolving changes around global mobility. If you would like to discuss your current cross-border working arrangements and what you should be considering, please contact our Director of Global Mobility Steve Asher at sasher@mks.co.uk.