There is a fresh thread on the American expat forum which asks a very simple question but has the potential to open up a “can of worms”. This is the type of thread which is sure to catch the attention of many posters and we fully expect an array of opinions and observations to be added over the coming days and months. So what exactly is the scenario?
Background to the thread
The thread revolves around a forum member who has the opportunity to relocate, with their current employer, from London to New York. It appears from the initial comments that the employer in question is looking to restrict the cost of such a move which is wholly understandable when you consider the current economic climate. However, there are suspicions that the person making the move is “being taken for a ride” and may well miss out on various payments and allowances which normally go with an expat move.
Interestingly, the change in office is being treated as a move rather than an expat relocation, even though the assignment is only for two years. It does prompt many questions and while the salary in question is being maintained at London levels (£60,000 in this example) and still comes with various benefits (such as medical cover, pension, etc) there is a feeling the employer may be doing the deal on the cheap.
London to New York
It is common knowledge at London is one of the most expensive cities in the world and the poster appears to have done their homework amid suggestions that the cost of living is roughly the same in New York City as it is in London. However, this will obviously depend on where you choose to live, your social life and many other factors which affect both your standard of living and your cost of living. On the whole it would appear it is a “like-for-like” move but there is so much more to this than just salary and benefits.
Many people who move overseas with their current employer will receive some kind of travel package which would allow them to return “home” on a regular basis to see family and friends. There is no mention of a travel allowance or any help towards the cost of travel in this particular post which would indicate it has not been discussed and nothing has been agreed.
Many people seem to forget that moving jobs is a very stressful time but moving jobs and moving to the other side of the world is one of the most difficult scenarios you can imagine. You not only have to take on a new workplace, new work colleagues and new work ethics but you also need to take on a new country, a new social life and to all intents and purposes you are starting again. There should be some kind of allowance to accommodate potential problems and stressful times associated with any such move.
It would appear from the thread that the offer to move from London to New York is very basic indeed with no suggestion of an accommodation allowance or any help towards the initial cost of accommodation in America. This is very unusual as the majority of employers looking to relocate their employees to another overseas division would want to help as much as possible and ensure they are as comfortable as possible in their new surroundings.
Let’s not forget, the employee in question is being moved for a reason, whether this is their particular skill, a shortage of staff, etc, and any employer would want to get the best out of their employee and ensure their private life is as comfortable as possible to ensure they work at maximum capacity.
Especially in these current economic times it is worth remembering that if you are sent overseas on an assignment by your current employer you need to protect yourself from potential redundancy. Imagine, as this poster is about to do, you move to America on a two-year assignment, maintain your £60,000 salary and then after the two years are up you are left without a job. While this should not happen, as any employer should offer some form of protection to employees “helping them out” in a foreign land, it is up to the employee to ensure they are protected by the terms of the move.
Many people given the opportunity to work overseas become excited, look forward to it and can often overlook important factors. No matter how well your company looks after you, or does not in this case, what would happen if you just did not settle in your new position?
While it is difficult to protect yourself in such circumstances it may be an idea to try and incorporate a trial period within your contract and after say three months you can discuss the progress with your employer. If is not working then the possibility of moving back home could be discussed although this is something which would need to be detained within your new contract.
It is very easy to discuss money, the cost of living, salaries and benefits but one factor which many people seem to forget is your quality of life. You could have more money than before, you could have a cheaper cost of living, you could have the best hotels and apartments in the city but ultimately what is your standard of living like?
The social side of your new life is vital if you’re to settle down in a foreign land for a prolonged period of time. Nobody can work long days, seven days a week for any length of time because at the end of the day you will burn yourself out. Cost of living and quality of life are two different issues which need to be considered in great detail.
Unfortunately, this thread may be the start of a new trend in relocation packages and relocation agreements. The economy has hit each and every business around the world and many are struggling to survive. The fact that this particular employer is looking to send an employee overseas “on the cheap” is a reflection of the difficult times at the moment although ultimately it is up to the employee to negotiate as good a package as possible for themselves. If you were a business surely you would look to keep your costs as low as possible?