Employee relocation packages cover work and move-related expenses for new hires, as well as current employees being promoted, transferred, or both.
It’s no secret that moving can be inconvenient and disruptive.
If you’re a future transferee considering a new job offer, your relocation packages should alleviate stress, make the transition relatively easy, and allow you to be productive in your new position.
Though relocation packages may include many of the same elements, they often vary greatly between:
- Employees, based on experience, skills, and their potential to impact the company’s bottom line
In other words, there’s no such thing as an ‘average’ relocation package.
But thankfully, with a little help, you should be able to negotiate top-notch benefits.
Peace of Mind
Relocation packages are generally customized to fit the needs of each transferee.
At least for larger organizations in which relocations are common, many relocation policies are multi-tiered to provide a basic framework for transferees of all levels.
Recent studies suggest that more than half of employees consider relocation a surefire way of climbing the corporate ladder, and in some instances, the attractiveness of the relocation package determines whether it’s worth the effort.
In short, relocation packages should provide workers on the move with peace of mind.
When companies commit to handling move details and covering expenses, it rewards good employees, helps them slip into their new roles easily, and attracts top talent away from competitors.
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Sound relocation packages should be adaptable.
One-size-fits-all packages and policies may make workers feel as if they aren’t important enough to warrant special attention – not a good message for someone considering a life-changing move.
Generally, relocation packages address the following items:
- The cost of moving – Including packing and moving of household goods, automobiles, and specialty items like pool tables and pets, as well as extra services like disassembling and reassembling exercise equipment and home entertainment centers
- Moving insurance (valuation) – Usually full-value replacement coverage with no deductible, equal to or greater than the value of your household goods and vehicles
- Storage – In most relocation packages storage is approved for a set period, but when a transferee is relocating on short notice, moving to an area with limited housing, or waiting for a home to be built, it may be offered indefinitely if it’s addressed beforehand
- House hunting costs and assistance – Especially for senior employees and those relocating with families, significant time and effort may be required to find a suitable home in an unfamiliar area, in which case the company may cover expenses and provide professional assistance
- Temporary housing – So transferees aren’t rushed into making big decisions on housing, temporary accommodations may be provided as a short-term solution until permanent arrangements can be made
- Travel costs – Travel costs can add up quickly, so many relocation packages cover airfare, meals, car rental, and lodging on house hunting trips, and when relocating permanently
- Real estate – Relocation packages often cover realtor fees, closing costs, compensation for selling a home below market value or breaking a lease, and losses associated with getting out from under an upside-down mortgage
- New city services – Getting familiarized with a new area isn’t easy, so many relocation packages include help finding schools, spousal employment assistance, and language and cultural training for transferees moving overseas
Especially in hot sectors like tech and finance, highly sought after job-seekers tend to pass on companies with no relocation packages or substandard ones.
In short, poor relocation packages exclude significant portions of the premium labor pool, which is why most recruiters and human resources professionals see them as key benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.
With some relocation packages, you may be expected to pay for expenses upfront and out-of-pocket, then submit receipts for repayment.
It’s a convenient and inexpensive way for companies to handle relocations
May cause stress by placing undue time, financial, and record-keeping burdens on you – the transferee
Lump-sum is when a company gives a transferee a fixed one-time payment to cover moving expenses the best way they see fit.
In years past companies favored direct billing and outsourced relocation functions, but recently the tide has turned toward lump-sum packages, which is no surprise considering how easy they are.
Lump-sum relocation packages are popular with some transferees too, but there are downsides, one of which is the gross-up.
Let’s look at an example:
Your salary is $75,000 per year, but when you recently relocated for work your employer gave you $10,000 to cover moving expenses.
Therefore, your W-2 for the current year will be $85,000 ($75,000 + $10,000), and you’ll be required to pay taxes on the full amount as if it was all income.
To keep you happy and minimize your financial burden, your employer may opt to gross-up, or pay you more money yet again to cover your additional tax liability.
- Lump-sum relocation packages are easy for companies to administer
- They relieve the burden of managing relocations from staff and allow them to focus on the company’s core business
- Some transferees like having the freedom to spend the money their own way
- For transferees, lump-sum relocation packages my increase tax liability
- They may be time-consuming and stressful for workers because they’ll need to navigate in areas they’re unfamiliar with, like moving and storage, real estate, and taxes
- They may feel like they’ve been thrown to the wolves, and that they’re not important enough to warrant personalized assistance
For companies that would rather not compensate transferees for the added tax liability associated with lump-sum packages, direct bill is a popular alternative.
If you’re an employee or new hire considering an offer, direct billing may free you from time-consuming move management and record-keeping, and keep you on good terms with the IRS.
- Many companies have relationships with top-notch movers, real estate firms, and tax professionals
- The hassle of move management and record keeping is placed on the company, not you (the transferee)
- Many service providers should already be set up for direct billing
- Allows the you to focus on your family and new job
- You’ll lose control over many aspects of your relocation
- The services provided may not be catered to your particular situation
- If something goes wrong, the company’s reputation may be tarnished
Though you may be tempted to accept your employer’s first relocation proposal, knowing what’s missing may help you get more than you ever dreamed of.
Spousal employment services and assistance with relocating elderly live-in family members and those with disabilities may also be negotiated, because they can make moving exponentially more difficult and expensive.
Likewise, providing community information is an easy and inexpensive way for companies to help you learn about the area you’re moving to.
You’ll usually find statistics on schools, crime rates, demographics, and median home prices, as well as the locations of hospitals, police stations and airports.
Trends in Relocation
In the past workers commonly stayed with the same company for their entire career.
Now, however, that’s rarely the case.
At big tech companies, the length of employment is typically just a few years for junior employees and millennials, and many workers see mobility as an exciting opportunity for growth and adventure.
Likewise, diversity is now a major priority for employers intent on reaping the benefits of all-inclusive workplaces, and in some respects, applicants from typically marginalized groups are in high demand.
It’s also worth noting, that according to the Workforce Mobility Association:
The average cost of transferring an employee who owns a home is nearly $100,000
For employees who rent it’s $20,000
Covid-19 and the Global Talent Shortage
Before the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, recruiters and HR professionals were reporting a serious lack of talent in many key sectors around the world.
According to Korn Ferry, in the next decade more than 75 million jobs may go unfilled, causing trillions of dollars in lost revenue, especially for companies in the financial, technology and manufacturing sectors.
Though there’s no way of telling how things will shake out, it seems likely that Covid-19 travel restrictions will put a crimp in many company’s relocation programs.
On the bright side, when relocation is an option, applicants may get more benefits.
It’s also probable that remote tele-comuting jobs will become more prominent for those who’d rather stay put until things get back to normal.
By now it’s probably obvious that relocation packages play vital roles in recruiting new employees and offering advancement opportunities for existing ones.
Though relocation is a big expense for employers, from the perspective of a worker contemplating a job offer, a relocation package may make or break the deal.
1. If you accept a lump sum offer and need to find your own movers, consider:
- Asking if they can set up direct billing with your company
- Working with vetted and reputable moving companies
2. Consider non-traditional options
For young do-it-yourselfers who travel lightly, alternate service options like moving container companies can save big bucks, which means more of that lump sum payment stays in your pocket.
3. Put technology to work for you
Though some relocation packages cover house hunting excursions, if you’ve accepted a lump sum offer, the expense will be yours.
Thankfully, many realtors offer video consultation services and virtual tours, so consider staying home… and saving your money.
4. Assess your needs before negotiating
Before accepting or rejecting an offer of employment with a relocation package, do a little soul searching to identify the things that are most important to you.
And when you’ve done that, get coworkers, friends and family involved, because they’ll think of things you’ll probably miss on your own.
5. Keep things simple
FAMILIARIZE yourself with relocation packages and terminology
STRATEGIZE how you’ll sell yourself and get what you want
PRIORITIZE the things that are most important to you
MINIMIZE what you move by getting rid of items you rarely or never use