COVID-19 Update: Best Practices and Approaches for Addressing Relocation Impact
UPDATED: March 20, 2020
As the global leader in relocation, Cartus is closely monitoring the ongoing health situation related to COVID-19, which the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic with escalating cases across the globe. In order to offer actionable insights that companies can use to inform their own response to this situation, we continue to canvass our global client and supplier base to learn what actions they are taking or are considering at this time. Those findings are summarized below. We will share ongoing updates through various channels as applicable. You may also check back here for ongoing updates as we receive them.
Clear and regular communication is crucial to ensuring all parties understand the situation as it stands as well as any required or potential next steps. Best practices include:
- Creating a comprehensive list of employees by country with all relevant contact information
- Establishing a dedicated communications channel (e.g., internal social media tools such as Yammer, Slack, Wiki) or other process (e.g., monitored email inbox, global shared drive) for employees to share and receive updates
- Establishing (or, if it already exists, activating) an internal Crisis Committee and/or Pandemic Response Team to traffic information and liaise with Executive Leadership to determine next steps; key participants may include delivery owner and partners, policy/operations owner, health officer, and representatives from Human Resources, Security, Facilities, and/or Marketing
- Partnering with an organization like International SOS to share pre-travel alerts and travel recommendations
- Keeping critical employee-facing vendors updated about your organization's protocols regarding 2019-nCoV to prepare them to answer questions from transferees and assignees
To date, Cartus clients are taking varying approaches to manage through and support employees during the crisis:
- Exercising stringent business continuity protocols around social distancing and remote work. (See Cartus' recent blog post for Surviving and Thriving in a Remote Work Environment.)
- Instituting a company-wide business and personal travel ban to at-risk zones with escalating cases: China, Iran, South Korea, and Europe, excluding Great Britain. There are also significant restrictions on travel to and from other parts of the globe. These are communicated to staff via internal communication channels such as Yammer and via Global Travel Management booking providers.
- Delaying assignment start dates into affected regions, where possible.
- Allowing only business-critical moves into affected regions during this period.
- Providing additional support like temporary housing for assignees arriving in regions that require quarantine upon arrival.
- Completing cost analyses on home leaves for affected employees to help inform decisions around evacuation policies.
- Providing a one-time allowance to expatriates to assist with needs that may arise or offering danger/hardship premiums to supplement anticipated price increases due to limited supplies.
- Analyzing remote locations to determine if location-specific support for supplies are needed.
- Creating formal protocols for voluntary and involuntary evacuations (specific to companies with expats directly in Wuhan)
- Benefits for evacuation at employee's discretion is based on existing home leave budget
- Benefits for evacuation at client's discretion include COLA, DLA, and other expat benefits as deemed appropriate; airfare (based on travel policy); rental care; additional bag; pet transportation; hardship allowance; etc., depending on the specific scenario
- Engaging a DSP to transport necessary food and supplies into cities that are already experiencing shortages.
Key Watchout: If considering alternative work locations or evacuation arrangements, it is critical to seek immigration and visa advisory from Cartus or your designated immigration providers.
Contact your Cartus representative for policy guidance.
Cartus Destination Services Providers (DSPs)
- For programs where the assignees are arriving from at-risk countries, our team is working with the assignment consultants and clients (for direct clients) to advise that we will not carry out activity until 14 days after their arrival.
- Employees need to fill out a health and travel declaration on whether they have travelled to mainland China, South Korea, Iran, and northern Italy recently, or if they have any upcoming travel plans to these countries and regions, and submit them to their employers.
- Singapore has implemented a new 14-day stay-home measure for Singapore residents (i.e., Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents), long-term pass holders (i.e., Student's Pass, Dependent's Pass, Long-Term Visit Pass), and foreign employees issued with a work pass who are:
- Returning to Singapore from 18 February 2020, 2359 hrs with travel history to mainland China (outside of Hubei province1) in the last 14 days
- Returning to Singapore from 26 February 2020, 2359 hrs with travel history to Daegu city (Republic of Korea) or Cheongdo county (Republic of Korea) in the last 14 days
- Returning to Singapore from 4 March 2020, 2359 hrs with travel history to Iran, northern Italy2, or Republic of Korea in the last 14 days.
- Every field consultant (FC) and real estate agent (REA) working on home search, orientation, settling in, and school visits should be wearing a surgical mask.
- FCs and REAs must have sanitizers in the car available after each visit.
- FCs and REAs should clean and sanitize their cars daily.
- Programs may be subject to cancellation should the assigned REA or FC fall ill or show symptoms for onset of flu.
- REAs should provide daily updates if landlords and/or landlords' agents are regularly failing to show properties.
- Regular pulse checks with FCs who may not comfortable taking on any assignments for assignees coming from China.
- International schools have cancelled all school visits and are not allowing visitors from China onto their campuses unless the visitor has been in country for at least 14 days without any flu-like symptoms.
Additional References and Resources
Health and Safety
State and Local Information
Travel Restrictions and Advisories
- U.S. Department of State – Breaking Travel Alerts and Information
- U.S. Department of State – Smart Traveler Program
- CDC Travel Information and Notices
- Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP