Thursday, 28 June 2012
Workforce risks to expatriates are on the rise—Amrae
The globalisation of French companies brings inherent risks in the form of workforce expatriation but this trend offers opportunities for risk managers and HR professionals, according to a panel debate at the first Rencontres Risk Management & Resources Humaines, organised by Amrae.
During the debate in La Baule, France, Crystel Rostang, Executives Remuneration, Compensation and Benefits Director at pharmaceutical company Air Liquide, explained the steps that must be taken to identify such risks and the policies that can be implemented to mitigate their threat.
The steps range from measures to guarantee the physical safety of employees and their families in risky locations to the identification of tax and financial issues that could negatively impact their earnings, savings and pension plans.
“We need to find a balance between the interests of the company, the costs involved and the protection of employees,” she pointed out.
Ms Rostang recommended employees are properly informed about the political stability and security risks of the country in which they are going to work. For certain countries special arrangements will need to be made, she added.
For instance, she suggested that in places where the risks of traffic accidents are high, like some parts of China, employees must be given designated drivers, or have the means to use taxis instead of driving their own cars.
Employees must also be educated about local culture and business practices. Corruption and fraud are examples of risks they could face that could create problems for the company back home, she said.
The risks should be considered with the interests of the company, the workers themselves and third parties in mind, she remarked.
Ms Rostang also said that to mitigate health risks for expatriates, companies must make sure that health coverage in the destination country meets quality standards. Companies must also ensure that repatriation policies are in place in case of medical emergencies, she added.
The dangers of expatriation are particularly high for French companies as they face high levels of liability should something happen to an employee when abroad.
Thierry Joffredo, an expert in expatriate issues at law firm FIDAL, pointed out that if an employee falls victim to an attack or act of aggression whilst oversees, French law is likely to deem the incident as equivalent to a workplace accident.
Companies must also answer for the misbehaviour of employees in foreign markets, he explained.
According to Mr Joffredo, French law decrees that should a French citizen in a foreign country commit an act that is considered criminal according to local law, it also registers as a crime in France.
The La Baule conference was an attempt by Amrae to encourage the HR and risk management functions to work more closely for the good of French companies.
Participants were told that their paths must cross when companies react to a crisis such as an earthquake or a violent attack on company premises.
Christian Manguy, the Director General of consultancy Réhalto, part of the SCOR group, stressed that crisis response provides particular challenges as staff members can develop traumas that affect their workplace performance as well as their personal lives.
He noted that even top executives at large companies can tremble in the face of a traumatic event.
“Crisis can be very different, and the reactions they trigger won't be the same either,” he said. “They can affect workers and their families and psychological assistance right after the event takes place is often required.”
The full version of this story will appear in July’s issue of Commercial Risk Europe.