10 August 2021

Why It Pays To Have An International Assignment Guideline Even For Occasional Foreign Assignments



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Companies that only employ staff abroad occasionally have to deal with the question of at what point does the effort of working out an international assignment guideline make sense and become necessary.
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Companies that only employ staff abroad occasionally have to deal with the question of at what point does the effort of working out an international assignment guideline make sense and become necessary. Often, companies with a moderate foreign element shy away from this exertion and deal with each assignment abroad separately or are in search of a simple template that can be applied to the people sent out on international assignments.

However, the following are reasons why companies should establish suitable regulations for them as early as possible, which are regularly revised and adapted to the needs of the company:

Achieving transparency regarding international assignment conditions and avoiding individual case decisions

Those assigned tend to be closely networked to each other and actively seek contact among one another to exchange information on existing and future stays abroad. Even if concrete remuneration details are not necessarily discussed, it quickly becomes clear what foreign allowances and visible benefits the staff receive. If, for example, housing costs are taken on in an attractive housing area for one employee, and the other employee only receives a modest allowance for housing costs, dissatisfaction and a bad atmosphere among the staff is pre-programed. Besides this, the international assignment packages are then often renegotiated afterwards, which can lead to extra costs and budget bottlenecks for the company.

An international assignment guideline freely accessible for all staff additionally counteracts complex individual case decisions and communicates transparency and fairness for all those assigned.

Taking different needs for international assignments into consideration within the organization

A well-structured international assignment guideline can and should cater to the different target groups of those assigned. A single university graduate, who gets the chance to go abroad for career development does not have to receive the same benefits as a specialist of many years who is urgently required for setting up a foreign location. If these differences are clearly communicated from the beginning, they are then also comprehensible and acceptable for staff.

Clear communication regarding benefits (e.g. housing allowances, daily allowances) and possibly also obligations (for example, repayment agreements, transfer of taxes) for respective internationally assigned groups allow management of expectations beforehand and saves costs for the company. If the information is communicated right from the beginning, it will appear reasonable for most staff who go abroad at their own wish for career purposes that they do not receive the same benefits as staff who are urgently needed at a foreign location.

However, if wants have already been roused and promises by superiors made, it will be that much harder to explain to staff why they should not have specific benefits. An international assignments guideline with defined process sequences and benefits for the respective staff groups achieves clarity right from the beginning.


Consideration of the different stakeholders and avoidance of recurrent conflicts of interest

It is in the innate interest of the business units to assign staff to the required location as quickly and uncomplicatedly as possible. In this respect, operational concerns often do not allow extensive time for preparation. However, the company departments HR, business controlling, and legal urge structured processes in order to preserve compliance, especially in terms of taxes, work permits, social insurances, and similar issues.

Here, the individual interests are often opposed as in the case of an immediate international assignment it is often not possible to obtain all the work permits or to develop the optimal structure of the international assignment in terms of taxes, social insurances, remuneration, and labor law. Also, avoiding a business operation abroad can lead to a disadvantageous fiscal evaluation for individual employees so that the interest groups, business controlling, finances, HR, and staff have to find a consensual solution that is beneficial for the company in its entirety.

It is therefore beneficial to define clear process sequences even in the case of irregular staff assignments abroad and to specify which interests are granted priority to prevent long recurring negotiations and mistakes already made. Ultimately, this saves money and nerves for all those involved.

Standardizing international assignments between associated companies

International assignments guidelines are essential when assignments between associated companies are organized decentrally. The standardization of international assignments and rough parameters assist in structuring these assignments and thereby simplifying them. If staff are assigned from different locations to one joint assignment location, they should find standard international assignment conditions so that, on the one hand, equal treatment is guaranteed and, on the other, the different positions and hierarchic ranks of the employees are heeded.


In principle, guidelines for those assigned should be worked out early on. It is advisable for companies with only a few international assignments to proceed flexibly and pragmatically in this respect. Here, the first international assignments guideline can just be a simple set of rules with the most important basic points such as taxes, social insurances, and benefits.

The experiences acquired can be integrated in a regularly revised international assignments guideline adapted to the company's requirements when the company has increased foreign involvement. This enables guaranteeing that a transparent, easily managed, and up-to-date guideline is available for all those involved just when they need it, shortly before the next international assignment of staff.

Originally Published by The Global Mobility Journal

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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