Highlights from the Humanis Conference on Global Mobility, Paris, 7 June 2016
Humanis, a large French employee benefits carrier that operates mainly as a paritarian institution and also is a major provider of health, life and retirement coverage for expatriates, in June 2016 hosted the ninth edition of its “Rencontres de la Mobilité Internationale” – or Global Mobility Conference.
A recurring theme heard over and over again at the conference, both from speakers and from attending practitioners, is the increasing workload and worries arising from compliance matters. Reports to authorities are getting more comprehensive, their frequency is increasing and there are more of them. More ominously, it seems that authorities all over the world are increasingly sharing and cross-checking the ever growing amounts of information reported to them. For example, in more and more countries immigration, tax and social security administrations are sharing information; discrepancies in notifications or in reports give rise to requests for clarification that may in turn lead to civil and criminal penalties, work bans, and temporary or even permanent deportation.
The next step is the sharing of information between countries, as opposed to in-country between administrations. Such exchanges have already begun in tax matters at the behest of the United States – FATCA comes to mind – and the E.U. is now following suit with the automatic exchange of information coming into full force as soon as 2017.
Indeed, flying under the radar in the hope of avoiding detection is becoming a dangerous option.
As a result, and for the first time in years, a poll of HR managers based in France conducted in 2016 found their number-one priority is improving processes and reviewing global mobility policies (82%) with a view to reducing compliance risks. Cost optimization comes in as a distant second priority, at a meager and unusual 45%.
Of course, the ultimate in risk reduction consists of putting an end to global mobility. This may indeed be a hidden agenda for some of the more populist governments. But modern business could hardly do without the transfers of knowledge and the flexibility afforded by globally mobile employees; professionals have become accustomed to being allowed to choose where in the world they apply their talents. HR has no choice other than to allocate increased resources to compliance matters.