Duty of Care & Relo: What HR Professionals Need to Know

Duty of Care is a legal term that’s been around for decades. As it relates to employment law, duty of care is the responsibility to act with a reasonable standard of care in regard to conditions that could foreseeably cause harm.

These days, human resource professionals tend to relate “duty of care” with ensuring people don’t get COVID as they come back into the office or with conducting workplace intruder drills. While these are certainly critical issues to address, duty of care is a critical concern when relocating employees and their households.

When an employer requires or sponsors a job-related relocation, the employer takes on a complex set of responsibilities. After all, there can be serious safety hazards — in addition to general concerns for employees’ wellbeing — that need to be addressed during relocation and even after an employee gets settled in.

Why is Duty of Care Important?

Proactive measures not only set up the employee for success but safeguard the company as well. Because providing for the safety and welfare of an employee who is relocating is an investment, there are a multitude of business advantages. For example:

  • Ensuring employee retention
  • Upholding a healthy, positive, corporate culture
  • Safeguarding brand reputation
  • Maximizing ROI for employees relocating for company needs

According to Sirva’s Spotlight on Duty of Care, “The pandemic brought this (concept) into sharper focus and generated higher visibility for mobility programs and mobility practitioners.”

The report also stated, “While no one is sure as to what the future of mobility support looks like post-pandemic, what is clear is that the focus will continue to be an area of high visibility for organizations and mobility practitioners.”

As vaccines for COVID-19 became readily available and the economy picked up, companies have begun to relocate people again based on one of the major lessons learned since the pandemic’s onslaught – it isn’t feasible for each employee/role to work from any place.


Proactively Address the Hazards

 In addition to corporate relocation, duty of care should be addressed in global benefits programs, and travel policies as well as emergency response policies. Pay particular attention to evolving safety hazards regarding changes in a country or city’s political or social climate.  And keep a pulse on safe vs “high threat” locations. Certain locations may require protective measures such as security training, a car, and driver or secure housing protected by private security personnel.


What Must Employers Do to Fulfill their Duty of Care Obligation?

Businesses are increasingly focused on the importance of their talents’ emotional state and mental health. When it comes to relocation, HR professionals are dedicating further energies and resources to make sure employees, and any accompanying household members, are set up to succeed in their jobs as well as report a good sense of physical and mental wellbeing.

Here is a short checklist of issues that should be evaluated to ease the stress of moving and ensure your employees’ safety.

  • Evaluate access to medical care and the employee’s ability to pay (either using employer-provided insurance or an emergency stipend).
  • Take steps to protect data privacy so that the talent’s (and household’s) personal information is safeguarded throughout the move.
  • Extend relocation timelines, if/when needed.
  • Create phased assignments where the rest of the employee’s household transfers later.
  • Ensure the employee’s phone is operational in the new location and that provisions have been made for emergency contact.
  • Advise employees to contact their bank and make a plan to ensure the employee doesn’t lose access to cash/credit/bank accounts.
  • Provide language training to help the talent (and those accompanying them) connect and communicate with others.
  • Offer cross-cultural training options to prepare for possible culture shock.
  • Offer driver training to prepare drivers for new conditions (such as winter driving or driving on the opposite side of the road)

Why is it Important to not Skimp on Duty of Care?

While relocating talented employees (and other members of the household) can be expensive, skipping steps to save funds can put your most valuable talent at risk — risk of leaving the assignment, leaving the company and even risk to their mental and physical wellbeing.  In this case, Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote applies. When it comes to duty of care, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


How Can IMPACT Group Serve Your Organization and Talent?

IMPACT Group can help increase relocation success for everyone in the home. We provide an experienced relocation coach and access to a technology platform customized for the purpose of employee relocation.

Your employees will have an expert IMPACT Group team by their side before, during, and after the relocation. Our relocation coaches bring industry expertise, local knowledge, and personal insights from their own relocations. Explore our relocation assistance programs for employees and everyone in their household.

Learn more about the trends that are currently reshaping relocation strategy.