Expats who move regularly may miss out on benefits packages

by Ray Clancy on August 9, 2012

Many mobile expats focus on a benefits package

Expats who move from country to country regularly may be missing out in terms of benefits packages offered by employers such as insurance, pension savings plans, training, cars and meal vouchers, it is claimed.

A study of the benefits offered by international companies showed that one fourth had no policy in place for mobile employees or had to arrange a benefits package on an individual basis.

Michael Thraves, financial planner and head of corporate services at Guardian Wealth Management, said that international companies should take a more holistic approach.

‘It’s becoming increasingly apparent that expats who move from location to location are falling victim to the benefits package challenge as employers find it difficult to keep track of different jurisdictions and individual nuances,’ he explained.

‘There is a growing trend amongst mobile expats to focus on a benefits package. Moving around the world for a company requires deep commitment and in return, employees expect a benefits package that provides generously for them,’ he said.

‘Multinational companies should adopt a more holistic approach and employ the use of a central strategy that allows employees access to their benefits once they retire. Employers must sit up and recognise the demands of their employees or risk losing out,’ he added.

Findings from Mercer’s 2011 European Survey on Employee Choice in show that employer paid benefit choice is most common among respondents from the UK (48%), followed by Sweden (44%), the Nordic countries (39%), Denmark (38%), the Netherlands (37%), Spain (35%) and Germany (28%).

It is less common in France (13%), where legal and tax issues pose significant challenges, and in Italy (5%), where employee choice is in its infancy.

Nevertheless, the survey results suggest that these numbers will grow. Of all respondents who do not currently provide choice, 69% say they are looking to introduce some form of choice in the future whether in the form of voluntary benefits, choice beyond voluntary benefits, or a fully comprehensive flexible benefits programme.

Some of the strongest interest is seen in countries where employee choice has been relatively rare. Approximately two thirds of the respondents from Italy, for example, are considering implementing some form of choice programme.

When asked about the challenges of implementing an employee choice programme, respondents across all countries were most likely to cite complexity of administration and cost very significant challenges.

‘As the flexible benefits market has grown, one of the major attractions has been the ability of employee choice programmes to generate savings for the organisation while controlling the annual spend on benefits. There are a range of flexible benefits which attract no tax or national income contribution liabilities,’ said Kim Honess, Mercer’s UK head of flexible benefits.

‘Employee benefits are one of the most important means to help companies stand out as an ‘employer of choice’. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, where a diverse workforce expects a range of options, traditional, ‘fixed’ benefits can seem outmoded. Therefore, a competitive and diverse benefits package, which gives people the ability to adapt benefits to suit their lifestyle, is important when recruiting and retaining company talent. This seems to be key motivation for employers across Europe,’ she explained.

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