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Both Foreign Assignees and International Hires in the UK are Poorly Supported by Employers

27 Mar 2019

International Hires and Foreign Assignees in the UK do not seem to be well supported by their employers when it comes to relocation. While Foreign Assignees are more likely to receive practical support, such as the organized move or a lump-sum payment, International Hires are left behind. “When it comes to benefits for International Hires around the world, international recruiting can often learn from global mobility management. In the UK, however, the support for Foreign Assignees is also below average,” says Theresa Häfner, Head of Business Solutions at InterNations. “Companies in the UK are in need of skilled professionals from abroad but in order to stay competitive in the war for talent, they have to support them more.” 

On a global scale, employers in the UK lag behind with benefits for both International Hires and Foreign Assignees. Countries such as the Netherlands excel in supporting global employees. They set a benchmark for employer assistance and show that employees that are better supported with their relocation and integration experience an easier, shorter adjustment period and a higher satisfaction with life in general. “Moving abroad comes with organizational as well as emotional challenges,” says Häfner. “Especially with the current situation in the UK, employers need to understand the relevance of both practical and personal support for their employees, if the country wants to stay an attractive destination for global talent.”

In the so far unreleased Expat Insider Business Edition Country Focus report, InterNations Business Solutions takes a closer look at nine different types of relocation support that global employees and their partners receive from companies. In addition to the UK, the report looks at the situation of expats who moved abroad for work and live in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UAE, and the USA. The report focuses on the benefits that International Hires (found a job abroad on their own or were recruited by a local company), Foreign Assignees (sent abroad by their employer), and Relocating Spouses (moved abroad with their partner) received, as well as the types of support they would have wanted. It reveals that lower shares of International Hires in the UK receive the nine types of relocation support than those globally, and that feeling at home in the local culture is more difficult for them, compared to Foreign Assignees in the UK and International Hires in other countries.

International Hires Receive Less Practical Support than Foreign Assignees

Foreign Assignees in the UK receive some more benefits from their employers in terms of standard, practical support, than International Hires in the country. However, on a global scale, they are not well-supported either. For example, 68% of Foreign Assignees received a lump-sum payment for expatriation-related expenses, which is just above the global average (65%), but still low compared to other countries featured in the survey. Foreign Assignees in the Netherlands (76%), Switzerland (75%), Hong Kong (74%), and the USA (71%) were more likely to receive this monetary support. Additionally, just two-thirds of Foreign Assignees in the UK (66%) got their move organized by their employer, which is much lower than the global average (75%). In fact, it is the second-lowest share among the nine countries featured: only Foreign Assignees in Hong Kong (63%) received less support with this. However, the share of Foreign Assignees who did not receive this offer but would have wanted it, is highest in the UK (27% vs. 16% globally).

When it comes to International Hires, only 19% were offered a lump-sum payment. This is not only a major 49 percentage points lower than the share of Foreign Assignees (68%), but also far below the global average for International Hires (36%), and the lowest share among the nine featured countries. The same is true for the organized move, which was received by just 23% of International Hires in the UK (vs. 43% globally). Only International Hires in Hong Kong were less likely to receive this offer (15%). It might be no surprise then, that 62% of International Hires in the UK were not offered a lump-sum payment but would have liked it, and 47% say the same about an organized move. Both shares are far higher than the global averages of International Hires (49% and 38%, respectively).

Employer Support for Both Expat Types at the Bottom of the List

The shares of International Hires receiving relocation support in the UK is not only below the global averages for lump-sum payments and organized moves, but also for the other seven types of benefits mentioned in the survey. For example, those in the UK are at the bottom of the list in terms of receiving information on local life (25% vs. 38% globally), language classes (6% vs. 27% globally), additional spouse support (6% vs. 17% globally), and intercultural training (5% vs. 14% globally).

While employer support for Foreign Assignees in other countries often sets some benchmark for those supporting International Hires, this is not the case in the UK: similar to International Hires, Foreign Assignees in the UK are at the bottom of the list in terms of receiving most support types when compared to those in the other featured countries. They represent the lowest shares of Foreign Assignees that received information on local life (29% vs. 46% globally), additional spouse support (18% vs. 31% globally), and intercultural training (13% vs. 24% globally).

Global Employees Miss Personal Support Most

Continuing the list, global employees in the UK are below-average supported when it comes to more personal support. For example, only 4% of Foreign Assignees and 12% of International Hires were offered access to local networking, compared to 16% and 17% globally. For Foreign Assignees, this is the lowest share among the nine countries featured.

The support is even more bleak when it comes to membership in an expat organization. This is the type of relocation support that the smallest share of both expat types received but most of them would have liked: just 3% of International Hires were offered this type of personal support (vs. 8% globally), but 66% would have liked. In comparison, not a single Foreign Assignee was offered that type of support (vs. 8% globally), but 73% would have wanted it.

Some Struggles with Settling In

Despite the extremely rare personal support for global employees in the UK, they don’t seem to struggle too much with settling down in the country: 49% of International Hires state they feel at home in the local culture and 55% of Foreign Assignees say the same. Both numbers are just slightly lower than the global averages (52% and 57%, respectively).

In general, Foreign Assignees in the UK seem to settle in better than International Hires, which might be due to the fact that they at least receive more practical support from their employers. In fact, 63% of Foreign Assignees find it easy to get used to the British culture, which is five percentage points higher than the global average (58%), and the second-highest share among the nine countries featured.

Making New Friends Is a Challenge, Making Local Friends Even More Difficult

It is making new friends that seems to be a real challenge for global employees in the UK. Just 43% of International Hires find it easy to make new friends (vs. 50% globally), which is among the lowest shares of the countries featured. Only International Hires in Germany (37% satisfied) and Switzerland (38% satisfied) find it harder. Additionally, just 48% of Foreign Assignees find it easy to make new friends, which is slightly below the global average (52%). A better access to socializing opportunities might help solve this problem. In fact, 55% of Foreign Assignees and 62% of International Hires did not receive this type of relocation support, although they would have liked it.

For International Hires in the country, making local friends stands out as an even bigger problem. Only 30% find it easy to make local friends, which is six percentage points lower than the global average (36%). An Italian male says that British people ‘’rarely want to become real friends with non-British people”. In fact, International Hires in China (35%), the Netherlands (35%), Hong Kong (36%), the UAE (37%), and the USA (51%) find it a lot easier to make friends with the locals in their country of residence.

International Hires Are Unhappier than Foreign Assignees in the UK

A lack of relocation support, as well as struggles with feeling at home in the British culture and making friends, could be contributing factors to why International Hires in the UK are not as happy as those in the other featured countries. Just 65% of International Hires in the UK are happy with their life, which is lower than the global average (71%) and the second-lowest share of the nine countries, together with Germany. Only International Hires in Hong Kong are less happy (62%). Foreign Assignees in the UK are also below-average happy with their life: less than three-quarters (73%) indicate happiness, compared to 80% globally. Among this expat type, only those in China are less happy (67%).

About the Expat Insider Business Edition Country Focus
The very first Expat Insider Business Edition Country Focus zooms in on Foreign Assignees, International Hires, and Relocating Spouses in nine featured countries (China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United Stated of America). It is an extension of the Expat Insider Business Edition, launched at the end of 2018. It provides valuable insights for global mobility and HR professionals supporting expats. All findings are based on the InterNations Expat Insider survey, one of the world’s most comprehensive expat surveys — 18,135 expats from across the globe took part in the 2018 survey. Important: The choice of the nine countries was solely based on having a big enough data sample. These countries are not ranked in the report, but comparisons are made between the countries. Global percentages for the expat types are also compared.

About InterNations Business Solutions
InterNations Business Solutions provides expert insights and personalized solutions for global mobility and HR professionals to ensure successful foreign assignments and improved international talent retention. InterNations is the world’s largest expat network with 3.4 million members and 420 communities worldwide. Through the InterNations Corporate Membership, expat employees and their families are empowered to quickly and easily integrate abroad through peer-to-peer support. This helps them through the most critical onboarding phase and seamlessly integrates them into their new home country for the entire time abroad. In turn, they are more productive at work and save global mobility and HR professionals time and costs.

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Caroline Harsch
Caroline Harsch
Media Spokesperson

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