This week has seen the weather brighten once again and the Expat Academy team working closely with our community online. Our virtual events have included a hangout, a Dublin hangout, an Aberdeen hangout, Managing a Virtual Team training, two tax clinics and a Global Heads Hangout.
The current challenges
It appears that, although some Global Mobility teams are still getting remote working requests with international agile working offered to many of these, on the whole most Global Mobility teams have tracked down and are monitoring their assignee population after the initial chaos caused by the lockdown introductions. We have seen some new challenges emerge this week.
- Our benchmarking has seen our members still grappling with furlough and whether this can be applied to assignees that have not returned to the UK. Whilst the government were quick to introduce the furlough scheme, it appears some clarity is still required as to the application.
- The lockdown measures in Singapore referred to as ‘circuit breakers’ have been extended to 1st June 2020 and existing measures tightened until 4th May 2020. This means that more workplaces will be closed. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the number of unlinked cases had not come down suggesting that there was a “hidden reservoir” of cases in the community.
- In China officials have imposed new limitations on movement in some northern parts of the country following a spate of new coronavirus infections. The new limits came after the authorities reported dozens of new infections linked to the return of Chinese nationals from Russia and the United States, according to Chinese state media. The restrictions imposed over the past week include the city of Harbin, a city of 10 million in north eastern China where a number of new infections have been reported. Other cities in the region have also imposed restrictions. This does highlight how difficult it could be for each country to fully recover from COVID-19.
- A number of Relocation Management Companies (RMCs) have seen the continuation of assignment initiations during this period albeit that moves cannot yet physically go ahead until after some of the restrictions are lifted. Discussions have already started around how best to manage the backlog once the moves are able to take place again.
- Some companies have turned their internship programmes virtual with the internship being completed from the home country. Initially this seems to have appeared in technology and engineering sectors, but it will be interesting to see whether this rolls out across other industry sectors.
- A number of companies are still proceeding with RFPs although overall the volume of RFPs has currently dropped.
- Our virtual hangouts have seen people discuss fantastic random acts of kindness within their communities and it is certainly lovely that, amid such a difficult time, there are some amazing positive stories.
Some temporary living apartments are extending the time in between guests to 72-96 hours, instead of the industry standard of 24-48 hours. This change allows a more thorough cleaning protocol to be followed in between guests. Amenities or common places such as pools, gyms and coffee bars continue to be closed within properties to prevent virus spread.
In some of Asia’s most expensive business hubs there has been a shift in the rental market. The pandemic has impacted the rising property trends across Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. Our network sponsors, AIRINC, spoke to industry experts across Asia’s most dynamic business hubs to understand the unique characteristics of each market and what this means for business, assignees and expatriate housing. The recommendations are that it is worth taking full advantage of the situation by proactively identifying opportunities in the market. Assignees still on assignment and looking to renew current leases, should research comparable units in the market to strengthen their negotiation position. While demand is slow, it is also important to set realistic expectations during rent reviews as it is unlikely for landlords to offer a large discount, especially for an existing lease. If landlords are unwilling to reduce rent, it may be worth asking for repairs or touch-ups. Assignees should also bear in mind the associated costs that come with finding a new property, such as commission and moving fees. The full article from AIRINC can be found here.
In the UK HMRC have extended the end of year payroll reporting deadline for employers of internationally mobile employees to 31 May 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
HMRC have also confirmed that the 2019/20 Appendix 4 Short Term Business Visitor filing deadline has been extended to 31 July 2020 (from 31 May 2020). This is in line with other recent easements giving employers some additional flexibility with their reporting.
HMRC have set up a dedicated phone helpline (0800 024 1222) to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19). The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice.
Our tax clinics this week, with Andy Kelly from BDO, have provided really valuable insight into how assignees affected by COVID-19, either because they have returned home or are working in a different location, should be treated. If you were unable to join us, a summary of the discussions can be found in an article Andy wrote for Bloomberg Tax here.
Just as you thought the global immigration landscape could not be more complex, President Trump tweeted this week that he was going to issue an Executive Order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States. The Executive order came through just after midnight yesterday and came into effect 11.59pm EST yesterday. The order suspends the entry of some immigrants to the US for 60 days (with an option to be continued “as necessary”). This does not apply to non-immigrant entries (e.g., H-1B, L-1, O-1, E-1, E2, E-3, TN, etc.), or foreign nationals already in the United States, including those applying for extensions of status, changes of status, or permanent residence through adjustment of status. However, the proclamation directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) to make a study of the impact of temporary foreign works on US workers.
Effective 20th April 2020, the United States and Canada have agreed to extend restrictions on nonessential travel across their shared border for 30 additional days. Cross-border trade and regular commuters will not be blocked. In addition, the United States and Mexico have agreed the same extension of restrictions.
For the latest travel and immigration updates from around the globe, our Network Sponsors, Newland Chase, publish a guide that is updated regularly each day and can be found here.
Now that the immediate concerns of locating assignees have reduced, many in Global Mobility are looking at whether assignment packages should be adjusted in accordance with the assignee’s current location and / or recent changes to the cost of living. Our network sponsors, AIRINC, took a light hearted look at the global prices for impacted goods such as toilet paper and disinfectant which can be found here. The difference in prices globally may surprise you!
Although the availability of some of these items has been more difficult it appears that there has not been a vast increase in price or profiteering from the situation according to the latest cost of living data released from Mercer, due out next week.
Looking to the future
Already we have seen members trying to work on their crystal ball as they plan for what post COVID-19 or the “rebound” might look like! Interestingly some of the discussion has focussed on the possibility of virtual assignments. One of our Network Sponsors, Mercer, have put together a checklist to look at how this new-found agility can be leveraged to retain virtual assignments as a viable option going forward. Interestingly they highlight that it is not necessarily about replacing all traditional international assignments by remote working as there will always be a need for mobile talent to relocate abroad to address urgent business issues or for training purposes. Rather, a virtual assignment is one more tool in the growing arsenal of options that companies need in order to deploy their global operations. This checklist can be found on the Expat Academy Vault here or alternatively on Mercer’s website here.
Our sister company MyGMPD is inviting all furloughed employees across the industry to sign up to MyGMPD for a 12 month licence for free! The normal cost for this is £950 so make the most of this wonderful gesture – sign up today! For more information on the MyGMPD accreditation click here. To register please click here. Please use your personal email address when registering and use the discount code EA-818-199. For any questions, please email hello@MyGMPD.com
One of our Training Partners, NetExpat, has recognised the additional stress and disconnection that many relocated partners are experiencing during COVID-19, and has decided to offer life-long free of charge access to their NetExpat Community (NEC) to all international relocating partners/spouses, even those who do not currently benefit from any NetExpat services. This “by invitation only” partners/spouses community was launched 6 years ago and is proving to be a real “life raft” for thousands of relocating partners around the world during the COVID-19 crisis. NEC Members find supportive virtual meet-ups to join where they can openly discuss the impact of Covid-19 and helpful roles they can play for the rest of their family. NEC members also find thousands of other partners to talk to, a space to ask questions and to help others. You will find a 2-minute video here and the latest NEC newsletter here. To receive a registration link and unique code to share with your international relocated partners/spouses, please contact Des McKell, Regional Director at NetExpat – email@example.com +44 (0) 20 8148 1403
All MyGMPD members can find all the latest technical updates in this week’s Expat Academy Round-up white paper on the MyGMPD website. Don’t forget to completing a Learning Log and get closer to MyGMPD accreditation.
The Expat Academy team hope you have a restful weekend in the sunshine. As always, if there is anything that we can help you with during this unprecedented time, please do let us know.