HR – What the T&C´s says

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Q: Why is it, that so many expat assignments are dealt with (only) accordingly to pre-defined company rules and policies and with the argument “this is what the T&C´s says” ?

This, despite us living in a world where we all claim individuality, diversity, “unique DNA” and a customer centric focus.

A: The short answer is that, particularly within larger organizations, things can really get out of hand if there are too many detours. Most importantly though, is the absence of an already defined flexible contract.

Inarguably, it is also due to the often very long stretch of time, it takes to get approval on a differentiated request. Not mentioning the many discussions HR must prep for and enter. We are all busy.


Well – that is their job………

And yes, it is. However, putting on the HR googles I clearly see why the ”T&C answer” can be autopiloted, as HR are surely looking at many frivolous and non-tangible requests from expats. Adding to this, HR must collect proof and justification when pinpointing that one specific request, that have fairness to it.

Why it that an issue?

Because not all thigs are black and white. And, the things that are not, are always debatable and tricky to prove.



You are the HR and receive a request to approve payment for a 4-room flat instead of a 3-room flat.

A price on a 4-room flat versus a 3-room flat is a straightforward number, and in this case that is too much accordingly to T&C´s.

You do a bit more digging into the request though.

You discover that the expat and his family are Jewish and that they are following the Jewish “family law of purity”. This means that during the wife´s period they cannot sleep together. Hence the request.

Now, how do you calculate culture and religion?

How do you prove this?

What about the original intend of the policy? Will it be compromised.

How do you explain this to the next expat asking, without compromising the privacy of the Jewish family?


My Advice:

My take and advice on this, is that you have to pursue getting approval for this, regardless of T&C´s. Certainly you can close the dialogue by referring to T&C´s, but that leaves the family feeling diminished because of their way of life and beliefs.

Not a good start.


The risk if saying yes:

  • Other expats will ask for the same.
  • You risk that part of your team, also counting admin and finance, will not treat the conclusive evidence/information with understanding, confidentiality, and respect.
  • Risk on policy. You are basically undermining your own policy.
  • Mistrust internally, which can snowball into other areas of HR policies.


Benefits if saying yes:

  • You get an employee that feels seen and respected
  • His family life remains calm


Looking at the above, my advice seems not valid. Saying yes, surely has heavy weighing consequences.

My advice is valid though.



My advice is valid, in the view of the fact, that I simultaneously advice that keeping your expatriating and relocating employees seen, respected and happy is tied with initially having flexible policies and T&C´s in your expat contract guidelines.

Obviously making sure that a policy exception stays within the original intent of the policy. Also, by highlighting any borderline approvals as an exception, in the actual contract.

On a final note, to my advice on flexible expat contracts, I also firmly argue that a more flexible contract layout, holds hands with your company being able to claim having competitive necessities in place. You want that to attract and retaining key employees.

In particularly for the younger generations and the once to follow them.


Bottom line:

Flexible procedures keeps employees seen and respected. Upfront.

An expat is a costly affair, and the simple math is that the well-being of an expatriating employee and his family, equals performing and execution.

Performing and execution will align with costs and with securing that the objectives defined are meet.

In a nutshell, that is what companies want.

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