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Innocents Abroad: Employer Considerations When Sending Employees on International Assignments or Business Travel

From:             Ned Help

To:                  Carrie Counselor

Date:              July 13, 2016

Subject:         It’s been great working with you!


I’m writing to inform you that I am being transferred to our Rio de Janeiro office next month for a twelve month assignment. It’s a bit daunting, but I am confident that the help you have provided me in establishing policies and practices will serve my interests and the interests of the company.

Over the last five months, you have provided legal and practical insights into issues arising when an employer sends employees abroad on business or for a work assignment. I have repeatedly asked for your help regarding situations involving employment, immigration and privacy issues.  I’ve shared these best practices with our Human Resources team so they are better able to anticipate and manage the challenges of doing business in an increasingly global economy.

Based upon your guidance, we have driven home to those employees likely to travel abroad that they must check in with the HR team well in advance in order to prepare for their trip or assignment. With sufficient notice, we can determine if it constitutes business travel or “work” and whether a particular visa or authorization is required.  We can also advise the employee how to present him or herself to the foreign immigration authorities at the airport, and what to expect there.  We certainly don’t want another situation like Ben Bedraggled being detained in Milan and then returned to the U.S. due to lack of understanding and preparation. Similarly, we can now prepare our employees for what to expect when travelling to the U.S. from abroad, and avert the confusion that Winston Wild experienced at the Toronto airport.

Thanks to you, we have revised our offer and assignment letters to better cover the special risks and situations that need to be considered when an employee will be assigned abroad, particularly in unstable geographic areas.  Addressing issues such as physical safety, housing, insurance, emergency procedures, available resources, and local laws and customs upfront, makes our international travelers safer and clarifies the respective responsibilities of the company and its employees. We have also improved our employment agreements to acknowledge the special risks of working abroad and to specify the assumption of various responsibilities.  Issues such as special compensation, tax and expense considerations, as well as work schedules and other employee benefits are now set out so there will be no misunderstanding when our employees are assigned to work abroad.

Our General Counsel and Chief Technology Officer were especially pleased to receive your guidance on privacy and personal and client data considerations for employees travelling abroad. When Abbie Absent-Minded left her company laptop on a train while on business in London, we didn’t know what to do.  Who knew that the employer’s obligations with respect to data privacy would be so complicated and vary so much from jurisdiction to jurisdiction!

Lastly, you have prompted us to examine our entire global mobility practices and identify the issues that we had not addressed adequately – or at all. Accordingly, with your help, we have rethought our immigration, employment, benefits, and privacy policies and the employee agreements that support them.  Thanks for all you help in getting our company up to speed on these critical, evolving issues.  While we can’t anticipate every situation that may arise as we expand our business internationally, our consciousness has been raised and we are better prepared to meet these challenges.

Thanks, and wish me luck in Rio!



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