I’m sitting at my desk sending out letters to assignees regarding the calculation and pay-out procedure for their exchange rate stabilization payments, when I receive an out-of-office notification back. Not unusual, but the words read, “I am currently on maternity leave, please contact Peter Wilkinson (not the real name) in my absence, I will return on a date yet to be determined.”
Usually one has a few months lead-time to link in with the Service Center and do some careful planning. It doesn’t happen that often, but it does occur, yet it is often something overlooked in most Global Mobility Policies. At the time I was about six-months into my time at the company, but nevertheless, I was not surprised to learn that, though it had occurred before, there was no written policy to address an assignee and how maternity leave will be administered.
Clearly the assignee, while in the U.S. should receive the benefits in line with the host location - - but many assignees will have a dormant contract and still entitled to benefits there – and depending on both the wording of the contract and the philosophy of the global human resource function the treatment of this assignee is nebulous and precedent setting.
Several factors to be considered:
- How much time is left before the end of the assignment?
- Should the assignee be granted home or host leave maternity leave?
- Is there a ‘dormant’ contract and what are the terms and how should they be applied to disability and Family Medical Leave (FMLA)?
Now any human resources person is used to the unexpected. I gave a bit of time to contemplate the implications. As the assignee was sitting in a U.S. location, my hope was that she would simply be held to the U.S. benefit and the legal department on both sides of the pond would agree. But if she fought for the more generous home country maternity benefit - things could get complicated fast.
- Was the home department aware of her leave status?
- Had she gone through the standard process for the administration of her leave? If not, the Service Center should be notified to reach out to explain the process to an employee unfamiliar with how it works.
- Had she notified the benefits department of the new baby?
But if the assignment was ending in six-months, did it really make sense to keep her and her family in the U.S. all the while paying a housing allowance and other benefits only for the family to go home shortly thereafter?
There are frameworks, such as rules governing the treatment of employees which are always the starting point, but then every single case is different. And when it comes to an employee whose total package and cost to the company runs typically four-times that of a regular employee everyone has an opinion. Quick strategic thinking must be employed to come to a fair and equitable plan.
Unfortunately, not having the up-front notification (by either the assignee or the host department) took away our ability to address these issues and inform stakeholders of the way forward and gain advance agreement to the path to follow. Everyone involved drank some four-hour energy, rolled up their sleeves and we hit the phones, keyboards, and blackberries. By the next day we had a plan and put it into action. We:
- looped in the home department as well as global HR to agree that the host country benefit would be applied.
- worked with legal to create a guideline to address the issue for future cases, incorporating it as an addendum to the global mobility policy.
- informed the assignee of the U.S. benefit and the steps she would need to take to get her disability and leave approved.
- got the new baby enrolled into the medical plan.
- breathed a sigh of relief and moved on working with payroll to get the exchange rate stabilization payments paid before the payroll closed for the week.
- and called it a day.
Power is so characteristically calm, that calmness in itself has the aspect of strength.
- Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton