The risk profile of business travellers has grown significantly over the last few years as ‘informal mobility’ has grown and in some organisations partly replaced more formal expatriate arrangements. The areas of risk – personal tax, immigration, employment law, corporate tax and cost, retention and personal safety – are similar to those that apply to more formal expat arrangements but there tends to be less structure and process in place to manage these risks.
While most organisations recognise these mounting challenges and risks, many are still struggling to manage their mobile population due to a lack of ownership over business travellers - a PwC survey of 224 companies revealed that 23% of organisations do not know who has responsibility for business travellers and only 33% have business traveller policies in place. However, it is clear that there is both a need and a trend towards assigning greater accountability, with 86% of respondents wanting to improve ownership within the next 2 years. But where should the responsibility lie?
It can be argued that responsibility could be lie in part within any of HR, Legal/Immigration, Tax, Global Mobility or Finance, but should one department/individual be tasked with having oversight? Typically:
In our experience, the Mobility function/the person responsible for Global Mobility will tend to be most used to managing across the broad range of issues which are relevant and are most likely to have processes that can be brought to play to handle this complexity. However, global mobility alone cannot address the business traveller risk and whilst remaining ultimately responsible, cross-functional communication and analysis is essential, with collaborative working between the Global Mobility, Tax, HR and wider management functions providing a holistic approach that most effectively manages cross-border risks. This allows the teams to agree a process or framework to govern how they identify, mitigate and manage the risks created by mobile employees, driving better behaviours throughout the business and assigning ownership at each stage of travel and compliance lifecycle.
It’s time for action - authorities worldwide are beginning to share information with each other and the pressure for real-time reporting on compliance is growing. Organisations need to be sure that they have effective teams that are implementing the right policies and systems to manage, monitor and report on their informally mobile employees, and to feed that information efficiently and effectively into the rest of the organisation. As long as confusion exists over who is responsible for tracking and managing travellers, an inability to react quickly to locate travellers or to mitigate and prevent taxation and immigration breaches will persist.