Top 5 COVID-19 Risks for Your Company’s Relocation Policy

What are the top 5 COVID-19 risks for your company’s relocation policy? While the COVID-19 pandemic starts with the 120 nanometer in diameter coronavirus, its impact upon companies and employees is both far-reaching and wide-ranging. The ability of employees to relocate in order to take new job opportunities, domestic short term assignments, or long term global assignments has been a cornerstone of the relocation industry.

Now companies must respond to government-issued work-at-home orders, border closures, health advisories, travel restrictions, and changing work policies. These new realities may impart significant risks to a company’s relocation policy. Companies should arrange to review and benchmark their relocation policy to ensure the top 5 COVID-19 risks have been adequately addressed.

What are the Top 5 COVID-19 Risks for Relocation Policies?

1. Work from Anywhere Policies: Possible Looming State Tax Issues

At the start of the pandemic in the US, many companies hastily arranged to allow employees to work from home. Often this was done over the span of a few days, as the focus was on safety for all involved. However, if paperwork didn’t follow, many employees may not realize they might have additional state tax and reporting obligations. The same holds true for employers. This was essentially a corporate relocation, often involving the employee, office equipment, and company records. Without proper documentation, there may be many areas that should be addressed.

Erika Beddow, Business Development Manager at Global Mobility Tax, LLP reports that only a few states have provided guidance and certain relief for companies and individuals who are working in their state temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is uncertainty surrounding how many states will tax these individuals and businesses. There may be implications relating to triggers for state “nexus” and payroll withholding requirements.

In all cases, companies should examine the impact and implications of this corporate relocation on both the employer and the employees. Consideration should be given to the impact on payroll tax withholding and reporting obligations. As one of the top 5 COVID-19 risks for relocation policies, possible state tax issues could have ramifications for new hires, transferees, employees suddenly working from home, and employers—in short, everyone.

2. Cyber Security Issues: Phishing versus Vishing

Many companies have invested in data security systems throughout offices and facilities. Often these companies must meet specific guidelines relating to handling of corporate data. Data thieves continually try to get past these systems with various phishing scams. By sending emails or text messages from what appears to be a trusted contact or corporation, scammers appear legitimate. Some companies and organizations have been significantly harmed by these scammers, often through ransomware attacks with demands for payment. Training to identify these phishing attempts, and software to block suspect emails, has proven somewhat effective, but the risks remain.

Vishing is the voicemail or verbal form of phishing. With vishing, a scammer might masquerade as a computer technician from the company’s Information Technology Department and make a phone call to an employee to inquire about their computer setup. By asking a few key questions of the unsuspecting employee, the scammer is now suddenly able to enter the company’s data system.

Can Vishing Happen at Your Company?

Think this can’t happen to your company? It happened to Twitter. As Twitter recounts the incident, the scammers called Twitter employees. By using fake identities, the scammers convinced Twitter employees into giving up their credentials. This gave the scammers access to an internal company tool that let them reset passwords authentication setups. Any company concerned about their data should recognize cyber security as one of the top 5 COVID-19 risks for relocation policies. Does your relocation policy include all the information it should relating to these issues?

Understanding the risks that both phishing and vishing present to employees working remotely is important to employers. With some companies now working 100% on a remote basis, employees who have relocated to a home or “anywhere” office should be considered a possible risk for these scams.

3. Travel Policy Issues: Guidance, Changes, Emergencies, Recommendations

In the world of relocation, travel issues have had a large impact on the ability of companies to draw talent and conduct business. One of the biggest challenges is that there is so much volatility in recommendations regarding travel. Travel policies are not only one of the top 5 COVID-19 risks for relocation policies; these policies are most likely the risk that affects nearly all employers in some way.

At any one point, one state may require something new from travelers arriving from another state. Various borders between countries may be subject to restrictions or closures, in turn generating emergency repatriation requests. Agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might issue revisions to previously stated guidelines.

Employers should recognize a duty to provide updated information and guidance for all traveling employees. Correct information and guidance will help employees better understand how they should safely travel during the pandemic. RMCs with experience in travel policies can provide Premier Travel Coordination throughout the entire relocation process.

4. Immigration: Nearshoring may be an Option

COVID-19 may result in border restrictions and closures impacting immigration. However, other efforts in the immigration system further dampen an employer’s ability to hire global talent. Specifically, the Trump Administration’s Proclamation 10014 and its extension through December 31 suspends entry of immigrants to the US under many visa classes. These visa classes include several that are in wide use among technology industry companies. Many of these companies generate several thousand applications in the hopes of hiring foreign talent.

The concept of “nearshoring” may be a viable option for companies. By leveraging a location in Canada or some other nearby country, a company may be able to hire foreign talent and bring them near to the US. Often this helps the new hire acclimate to life in North America. Future changes in the immigration system may allow them to enter the US at a later date.

Relocation policies should be reviewed to account for alternative options such as nearshoring. As a result, employers may have multiple avenues to pursue global talent. They may also be able to remain compliant to national and international immigration requirements and guidelines.

5. COVID-19 Safety Compliant Providers: Ensuring Safety Measures are in Place

In any relocation scenario during COVID-19, companies should ensure safety measures are in place. All services provided during relocation should be COVID-19 compliant. They should also provide new hires, transferees, and their family members the full scope of the service to ensure a successful relocation experience. Due to the direct impact on the relocation process, providers are top 5 COVID-19 risks for relocation policies.

Corporate Housing

Traditional corporate housing must meet specific cleanliness and quality standards, and undergoes professional cleaning prior to rentals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that employers offer corporate housing options that meet cleanliness and disinfection standards noted by CDC guidelines.

Real Estate

Many real estate activities can easily be done through a virtual experience. This helps the real estate industry comply with guidelines set in place regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Household Goods Moves

The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) has issued guidance for consumers to ensure safety during a household goods move. North American Moving Services has issued specific COVID-19 Business Continuity Plans to help everyone remain safe during their move.

Destination Services

Destination services can be provided in several virtual formats. By leveraging technology, providers have used video, remote access, virtual reviews, online services, and consultation both safely and successfully.

What Should Employers do About the Top 5 COVID-19 Risks for Relocation Policies?

Employers should schedule a relocation policy review to identify how the top 5 COVID-19 risks affect aspects of their policy. They should also benchmark their relocation policy to identify best practices and practical solutions. As a result, employers may be able to mitigate any risks related to COVID-19 issues.

Employers should work with a Relocation Management Company (RMC) with knowledge and experience in developing relocation policies. RMCs will identify best practices that will help the employer reduce the impact of the top 5 COVID-19 risks on their relocation policy.


GMS’ team of global relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients understand how to develop relocation policies that provide the best experience for new hires, transferees, and their family members. Our team can help your company understand how to review your relocation policy and address issues relating to the top 5 COVID-19 risks. As a result, your company will be able to remain competitive in its industry. It will also continue to attract the best candidates for job openings. It will also be able to minimize any impact of the top 5 COVID-19 risks.

GMS was the first relocation company to register as a “.com.” The company also created the first online interactive tools and calculators, and revolutionized the entire relocation industry. GMS continues to set the industry pace as the pioneer in innovation and technology solutions with its proprietary MyRelocation® technology platform.

New SafeRelo™ COVID-19 Knowledge Portal

GMS recently launched its new SafeRelo™ COVID-19 Knowledge Portal featuring a number of helpful resources including:

  • Curated selection of news and articles specific to managing relocation programs and issues relating to COVID-19
  • Comprehensive guide to national, international, and local online sources for current data
  • Program/Policy Evaluation (PPE) Tool for instant relocation policy reviews

Contact our experts online to schedule a complimentary relocation policy review with regard to the top 5 COVID-19 risks, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.

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