13 June 2012

The Assignee has HIV: What would you do?

An article in the latest SHRM on HIV and AIDS in the workplace got me thinking.  It made me think about a scenario where someone might be selected to go on an international assignment who later was discovered was HIV positive. 

The article states that people with HIV and AIDS are living longer and capable of making valuable contributions as any other employee would, though it's true that their life expectancy is shortened by as much as 21 year's according to some reports.

Does your company do pre-assignment health screenings?
I worked for a company that offered pre-assignment health screenings overseas, but they weren't mandatory and I never saw someone refused an assignment due to the results.  We didn't request or require them for U.S. employees due to avoid issues with entering conversations to do with a person's medical records.  

I would encourage assignees to, once selected for assignment, visit their doctor for a full physical.  This would enable the employee to get up-to-date medical records and obtain any maintenance prescriptions before the assignment's start.

I'm not sure if this is something that companies may want to revisit, though.  Issues of discrimination due to disability might be raised if not handled well.  Issues of confidentiality and the employee's future might perceived to be unavoidably damaged due to the stigma.

Some issues I've faced:
  • An assignee has a heart attack;
  • Serious car accident landing the transferee in ICU;
  • An adult family member with mental retardation in the care of the assignee or in a group home requiring frequent visits;
  • An accompanying child with severe autism;
  • An accompanying spouse with mental illness;

There was nothing in our policy to require that persons going on assignment be physically fit to carry out the assignment.

It's a worthwhile exercise to discuss how your organization would handle this issue.  Perhaps involving the person charged with fulfilling the companies diversity and inclusion program.

Facts to consider:
  • Some countries (such as Russia and others) have travel restrictions pertaining to persons visiting or working who have HIV or AIDS.
  • A visit to certain countries may increase exposure to deadly illnesses and adds risk for people with compromised immune systems.
  • If symptoms become acute, this could force a premature end to the assignment.
  • There may be reduced access to appropriate medical care.
  • Consider how comprehensive your medical coverage for AIDS is...
Points for discussion:
  1. Should there be a stated policy to address, or could it be in an 'implementation guide' that would be accessible to Expatriate Managers only?
  2. What if it's a family member who has contracted HIV or AIDS?  Should there be a policy to address liability issues if the family decides that they should still accompany.
  3. Would you rule out a prospective assignee who informs you of a chronic illness?  
  4. How would you a chronic illness of an assignee discovered pre-assignment?
  5. How would you handle a chronic illness that is contracted or becomes acute during the assignment?
  6. Have you had an assignee, or accompanying family member with chronic illness?
  7. Is it possible to limit the companies liability if a person contracts a serious illness during the assignment?
  8. Are you equipped to handle a death during the assignment?
  • Develop a policy to address persons with chronic illness, or persons that become ill or disabled during their assignment.
  • Ensure that your insurance coverage (both life and welfare) is adequate for assignees needs.
  • Work with your legal counsel and plan ahead for such instances.
A case could be made that an assignee would not be able to travel freely or obtain a work visa, depending on the assignment, and this could not be accommodated - end of story.  But it's a delicate issue and it certainly gets the HR policy juices flowing I would think...

12 June 2012

Seven Ideas to Make You an HR Super-Star

First, I have some very happy personal news to share.  I'm working with Mobility Services International (MSI) on a series of whitepapers. You can bet that as soon as that link is "live" - you'll be the second to know!  The first is an article that looks at the benefits of using a third-party provider to manage expatriate payroll.

Spoiler alert:  I'm very much in favor of using this service.  I'm jealous of those firms that have already made the move.

I think it may be helpful to Expatriate Managers who may not already have the benefit of using such a service.  As a a 'baby' Expatriate Manager, I wish I'd had the foresight to go with one of these firms early in my tenure with some of the firms with which I'd worked.  

There is a tendency for organizations start out paying expatriate benefits and salary through local payrolls, even though (with few exceptions) the likelihood of making errors is high and with it the risk of non-compliance by following this practice.  

Newly hired, the expatriate manager will focus on the laundry list of issues to address by their managers.  Early on I would interview assignees to find out where their 'pain points' were.  A good source of information, but the findings may not result in the development of projects that really should be a priority.

I introduced, early on, a global medical plan with emergency evacuation services.  Not a bad thing, however, I do wish I'd focused on outsourcing international payroll.  It surely would have cleared the way for the work that most of us prefer to do.  Running payroll and ensuring tax compliance will quickly fill your days, weeks and months - stealing time from the more visible projects.

I do recall a move to a vendor to manage expense processing and invoice processing related to expatriates.  This was a beautiful thing indeed, but only part of the solution.  It gave me the unforeseen capability to introduce pilot programs using alternate or specialized vendors.  

Here are some tips to make your life easier and be the super-star that you want to be:
  1. Work with an external law firm that specializes in Immigration Law -  preferably one with overseas offices for cases where there is no on-the-ground HR to manage visa-sourcing.  Many third-party law firms try to offer one-stop shopping for their corporate legal needs.  It's nice to be able to use a firm that can do the occasional outbound visa work.
  2. Develop a good world-wide network of vendors to handle settling-in support.  Key markets should have 'go to' agents that know your company well and know your priorities for your assignee's on-boarding to the host location.
  3. Find a great international bank to support your assignees specialized banking needs.
  4. Do use a global medical program provider that offers evacuation support.  It can be literally a life-saver.
  5. Get to know your peers.  I love to network and share good ideas.  Some of the best ones have come from other people in the business.  
  6. Take the time to meet with vendors who want your business.  Many of us in HR have to deal with the sales call now and then and have learned to get them off the phone as soon as possible. Make their day and let them take you to lunch.  They spend a great deal of time learning trends, may have some great ideas, and can introduce you to other expatriate managers.
  7. Read and share great industry blogs :-)
You may already be a super-star, and if so, let's talk and share some ideas!

"Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted."  - George Kneller