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What is International Assignment

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Gareth Wadley

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International assignments: Key issues to consider

what is the meaning of the international assignment

What legal issues do you need to consider when it comes to sending employees overseas?

The number of employees working abroad is increasing. As it becomes more common, some assume this will lead to greater standardisation, with template assignment letters the norm.

However, the legal, tax, pension and other variables involved in international assignments require a more bespoke approach, leaving little room for standard documentation. We outline some key issues to address below.

What is an assignment?

Also referred to as a secondment or transfer, an assignment might be internal (to a different role abroad with the same employer) or to an external employer. A key characteristic of an international assignment is that an employee from one legal entity and country ('home' country) temporarily performs services in another country ('host' country).

Potential assignment structures

There are a number of different ways in which assignments can be structured and documented. Which approach is appropriate will depend on a range of issues including employment law, tax, pension, social security and regulatory implications as well as the expectations of employees. Five frequently used assignment structures are:

  • the employee continues to be employed solely by the home employer;
  • the contract with the home employer is suspended and the employee enters into a local employment contract with the host employer for the assignment;
  • the contract with the home employer is terminated with a promise of re-employment at the end of the assignment. In the meantime, the employee enters into a local employment contract with the host employer;
  • the contract with the home employer is suspended and the employee enters into a contract with an international assignment company (IAC) within the employer group; or
  • the contract with the home employer is suspended and the employee enters into a contract with both an IAC and the host country employer.

Which is best?

When deciding on the best structure for the circumstances, some questions to consider are:

  • Do the host country’s laws require employment by a local entity, ruling out sole employment by the home employer?
  • Where there is no contract of employment in place with the host employer, could local laws presume that the host is the de facto employer?
  • If the home contract is “suspended”, is the home employer prepared to accept the legal uncertainty, in employment law terms, that this status brings?
  • In a dual contract structure, who will bear the greatest risk of being liable for employment claims – host, home (or the IAC)?
  • Will the employee accept the termination of his/her home contract?
  • What is the impact on pension and benefit schemes, social security and tax?

Are there key terms in the home contract that require special consideration and protection, for example, restrictive covenants and confidentiality?

Which national law applies, when and to what? Which courts would have jurisdiction in the event of a dispute?

Who pays for, and manages, the employee during the assignment and will the employee return to the home country?

Looking forward

It is inevitable that documenting assignments will become a smoother process as employers become more familiar with the issues involved. However, the range of significant personal, legal and financial implications will mean that a degree of tailoring will always be necessary, in order to avoid negative repercussions.

Gareth Wadley is principal associate at Eversheds

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A Successful International Assignment Depends on These Factors

  • Boris Groysberg
  • Robin Abrahams

Your marriage, your family, and your career will all benefit from advance planning.

The prospect of an international assignment can be equal parts thrilling and alarming: Will it make or break your career? What will it do to your life at home and the people you love? When you’re thinking about relocating, you start viewing questions of work and family — difficult enough under ordinary circumstances — through a kind of high-contrast, maximum-drama filter.

what is the meaning of the international assignment

  • BG Boris Groysberg is a professor of business administration in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School and a faculty affiliate at the school’s Race, Gender & Equity Initiative. He is the coauthor, with Colleen Ammerman, of Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Work (Harvard Business Review Press, 2021). bgroysberg
  • Robin Abrahams is a research associate at Harvard Business School.

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what is the meaning of the international assignment

Lessons from an international assignment

Robert S. DeVries

An international assignment has long been seen as providing executives with an opportunity for personal growth and professional development, while enabling companies to place executives in markets where specific capabilities are needed or to spread corporate values and best practices throughout the organization. With business footprints expanding and international markets becoming increasingly important drivers of revenue and profit growth, companies need executives who are global thinkers with broad-based business perspectives and the agility to master an array of markets, cultures, competitors and workforce differences.

As these capabilities become even more important, having a meaningful assignment outside one’s own market has become a critical element of executive experience and is likely to become a prerequisite for career advancement at a growing number of multinational companies.

We asked several senior executives to think back to their first or most memorable international assignment and share how those experiences helped to shape or influence their leadership styles. What surprised them the most? What did they learn and how have they continued to apply those lessons in their current leadership roles? Finally, what advice would they give to other executives about succeeding in an international assignment?

Philippe Bourguignon

Vice chairman, revolution places, and ceo, club med, what surprised you.

Someone who was born and raised in his country and, when he is 25, 28, 30, is posted abroad, obviously, learns so much during his first assignment. I was raised in Morocco. My father worked for a U.S. company, and I came to the U.S. almost every year when I was a young boy. Therefore, I’ve been exposed and living international from basically almost the time I was born. It is more a way of life, and, by the way, this has been a huge gift. My two children were born in New York and raised in the U.S., and today they are totally bicultural.

What have you learned?

I like to say that I’ve learned patience in Asia, and I’ve learned what competition means in the U.S., because I’m from a country where there is no patience and limited competition.

What I also learned by working internationally is that if you keep good sense — remain grounded in basic business judgment and rules — you can work in any foreign environment. Good sense is key. Some people try too hard to be too local, understand everything, but you will never understand a foreign country as well as you understand your native country, even if you speak the language. But good sense is the same everywhere.

What advice would you give to others based on your experience?

To an executive, my advice would be to listen and be humble. Listening is very important. Be humble and respectful. The tendency, particularly if you go into emerging countries, is to consider that everything else is not as well done. But being humble and respectful of people buys you tremendous mileage no matter where you go. You need to be more humble abroad than you are at home and more respectful.

When you are abroad, things are over-amplified. Being abroad over-amplifies your body language, your words and your decisions. Whatever you say is listened to twice as carefully as when you say it at home. You are watched much more closely than you are at home — for both good and bad.

John Doumani

Managing director, australasia for fonterra cooperative group, what did you learn.

The business issues were not that hard to discover, but the bigger issues for me were actually more cultural. The culture in the U.K. was similar to here, and there was a relatively informal work environment where you can joke around a bit. This is my style and it translated really well. However in Italy and the U.S., the work environment is more formal, and I had to adjust my style to be conscious of this. Had I not done so, I would not have been able to be effective working for the organization. You have to be very careful not to offend people. If you want people to follow your leadership, you have to engage them in a way that works for them.

Seventy percent of what you know about business will translate, but the other 30 percent — the difference between success and failure quite often — comes down to truly understanding the business dynamics that might be different. Market dynamics vary greatly in terms of regulations, trade and competitive structures. You’ve got to make sure you get your head around this because it will affect your ability to implement what you want to do, and you have to modify whatever you do to fit in.

The bigger issue is to be really sensitive to cultural differences. There’s no shortcut in being able to do this other than to have an open mind and be willing to accept any differences. You can’t go with the attitude of, “I’m just going to do what I do and if they don’t like it, stuff it!” The first thing is to accept that the cultural issues are really important. Accept the fact that it may be different and be really open-minded. The sooner you identify and are open to any differences, the better.

Philip Earl

Executive vice president and general manager, publishing for activision blizzard, what most surprised you.

Having worked in Saudi Arabia, having worked in Australia, having worked in Los Angeles, what surprised me the most is that there are more similarities than differences in the people across countries.

I learned the importance of understanding the pace of change: how much to do and how quickly. You have to be very astute in understanding the capabilities of the organization in the marketplace. It can be too fast, but can also be too slow. There is no right or wrong answer. You have got to accept that you can have a very strong strategy and you can have a very good vision, but unless you bring the team with you, it is just disconnected. Your people capability platform will determine whether to go faster or slower.

What people leadership insights have you gained?

Something interesting I have learned is the fact that people are motivated by different things, and understanding what most drives a specific individual lies at the heart of leadership. Often you assume people are concerned about money. It almost always isn’t the case. There has to be a base level of remuneration, but in three years working with video games people, I have Harvard graduates who just want to work in that industry; it motivates them to be part of something amazing. It is a passion for them. Some people are motivated by a very strong sense of family and a sense of community. If you are not careful and gloss over individual motivations, you never get the most out of people. You have got to understand people. There can be 10 nuances of what motivates them, and if you get that right, despite cultural differences, you can usually do quite well.

My advice is to “be in.” When you go to a new market, don’t hang around on the side; just get in there. Absorb the culture, language, food, sport, everything. You get a reaction from your work colleagues that is really incredible and makes you feel that you really want to be here, and as a consequence, they see you as an expat wanting to be here.

Conrado Engel

Chief executive officer, hsbc bank brazil.

The most important thing was how careful you have to be about managing cultural differences. People react differently to situations, and this is very challenging. For example, the way you interact with a Chinese company is completely different from an Indian one. Individuals can interpret situations very differently. Early during my assignment in Hong Kong, after a meeting where we were assigned tasks for a particular project, I asked an executive for a status update prior to the due date. I realized later that this made the executive feel very uncomfortable, because, as he said, he would fulfill his commitments; it was part of his responsibility. Again, it demonstrates the importance of understanding cultural differences.

What personal or professional lessons from your international experience have remained with you?

Managing any business is about managing people. Dealing with different cultures and reactions is crucial. I learned to listen more and reflect more before taking immediate action. I also learned that people can significantly benefit from each other’s experience. For example, I believe that my experience in dealing with crisis management as a Brazilian executive was very beneficial to the HSBC Group when I was in Hong Kong.

You have to visit people, go and visit the countries and the operations, and establish strong professional connections. Personal relationships may also help. Understanding the cultural environment is of vital importance. Learning how to navigate a large organization like HSBC — with a strong internal culture, with very strong roots in Asia — is also critical for success.

It is always best to listen, comprehend and then act.

Kirk Kinsell

President of the americas, intercontinental hotels group.

Based in London, with responsibilities for Europe and Africa, the things that surprised me were the diversity of thinking and the distinctive cultures and, therefore, how people felt, how people thought, how they processed information and what was important to them varied tremendously. As a result, there was more dialogue, which oftentimes meant debate. Having to have that broader discussion on issues was intriguing, challenging and fulfilling. Initially, the discussion can feel like it’s slowing things down, but when you reset expectations and build in opportunities for debate, what I have found is that, even though people may not agree with the ultimate decision, the process allows people to align and walk out of a meeting on the same page.

What personal or professional lessons have remained with you?

I made it a point to get underneath the differences between my new environment and what I was used to at home, and understand the history and the stories behind the surface. I began to appreciate the differences for how they enrich the environment that I was in, creating a more holistic and colorful tapestry from an aesthetic standpoint.

Coming back to the United States, I find myself wanting to go deeper with people who I otherwise would have thought were just like me. As a result, I think I have the potential to build stronger relationships. I have the potential to be a better leader. Because our job as leaders is to unlock the potential of the people we work with and the people we have the privilege of leading and managing. And, therefore, I can get perhaps a better perspective of who they are and their motivations and how they align with the company’s purpose and objectives.

What advice would you give others based on your experience?

To another American, I would say dialing down the fact that you’re American and dialing up being a global citizen is probably a much more effective way of engaging people. It doesn’t mean that you change your principles or your beliefs or your value system; it means being sensitized to how you come across. Saying things like, “We do it this way back there” — meaning that was the only good way — can come off as being too American, too know-it-all, too celebratory, too cheerleading, too shallow, all those things that are sometimes attributed to being American.

Murilo Portugal

President of febraban (brazilian federation of banks).

My most relevant international experience was to work with International Monetary Fund. It provided me a great opportunity to understand the reality of other countries. Since I was responsible for the fund’s relations with 81 countries in all five continents — from advanced countries such as Sweden to developing countries such as Bhutan — I had to understand different environments and market dynamics. In this role, I came into direct contact with the reality of different countries, different economic cycles and stages of development, from crisis to growth moments. What did not surprise me, unfortunately, was the reaction in some places to the economic crisis in 2008, in particular, the difficulty of entering into a discussion with governments and the denial about the gravity of the problems.

Do not postpone the inevitable. Trying to escape an inevitable conclusion will increase the costs related to the decision, but it is hard to define what you should fight for, and what to give up.

What personal or professional lessons from the experience have remained with you?

Life is the best teacher. The only problem is that there is only one pedagogy. You learn when you hit a wall, and usually you have to go through this painful process to learn. Even if you rationally know what to do, usually you only change when you hit a wall, because of the limitations in the decision-making process and human behavior.

Respect the level of the professionals who work with you, and learn how to best deal with very smart people and motivate them. Well-qualified people, of course, have their own ambitions and personal interests. It is critical to maintain the enthusiasm of people in a multicultural environment, and devote time for that. You have to be a manager of people, otherwise you will fail even if you are capable of managing processes and tasks. Technical knowledge alone will not make you successful.

This article is included in Point of View 2012 .

what is the meaning of the international assignment

18.7 The International Assignment

Learning objectives.

  • Describe how to prepare for an international assignment.
  • Discuss the acculturation process as an expatriate.
  • Describe effective strategies for living and working abroad.

Suppose you have the opportunity to work or study in a foreign country. You may find the prospect of an international assignment intriguing, challenging, or even frightening; indeed, most professionals employed abroad will tell you they pass through all three stages at some point during the assignment. They may also share their sense of adjustment, even embrace of their host culture, and the challenges of reintegration into their native country.

An international assignment, whether as a student or a career professional, requires work and preparation, and should be given the time and consideration of any major life change. When you lose a loved one, it takes time to come to terms with the loss. When someone you love is diagnosed with a serious illness, the news may take some time to sink in. When a new baby enters your family, a period of adjustment is predictable and prolonged. All these major life changes can stress an individual beyond their capacity to adjust. Similarly, in order to be a successful “expat,” or expatriate, one needs to prepare mentally and physically for the change.

International business assignments are a reflection of increased global trade, and as trade decreases, they may become an expensive luxury. As technology allows for instant face-to-face communication, and group collaboration on documents via cloud computing and storage, the need for physical travel may be reduced. But regardless of whether your assignment involves relocation abroad, supervision of managers in another country at a distance, or supervision by a foreign manager, you will need to learn more about the language, culture, and customs that are not your own. You will need to compare and contrast, and seek experiences that lend insight, in order to communicate more effectively.

An efficient, effective manager in any country is desirable, but one with international experience even more so. You will represent your company and they will represent you, including a considerable financial investment, either by your employer (in the case of a professional assignment) or by whoever is financing your education (in the case of studying abroad). That investment should not be taken lightly. As many as 40 percent of foreign-assigned employees terminate their assignments early, Tu, H., & Sullivan, S. (1994). Business horizons . Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1038/is_nl_v37/ai_14922926 at a considerable cost to their employers. Of those that remain, almost 50 percent are less than effective. Tu, H., & Sullivan, S. (1994). Business horizons . Retrieved from FindArticles.com: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1038/is_nl_v37/ai_14922926

Preparation

With this perspective in mind, let’s discuss how to prepare for the international assignment and strategies to make you a more effective professional as a stranger in a strange land. First we’ll dispel a couple of myths associated with an idealized or romantic view of living abroad. Next we’ll examine traits and skills of the successful expatriate. Finally, we’ll examine culture shock and the acculturation process.

Your experience with other cultures may have come firsthand, but for most, a foreign location like Paris is an idea formed from exposure to images via the mass media. Paris may be known for its art, as a place for lovers, or as a great place to buy bread. But if you have only ever known about a place through the lens of a camera, you have only seen the portraits designed and portrayed by others. You will lack the multidimensional view of one who lives and works in Paris, and even if you are aware of its history, its economic development, or its recent changes, these are all academic observations until the moment of experience.

That is not to say that research does not form a solid foundation in preparation for an international assignment, but it does reinforce the distinction between a media-fabricated ideal and real life. Awareness of this difference is an important step as you prepare yourself for life in a foreign culture.

If the decision is yours to make, take your time. If others are involved, and family is a consideration, you should take even more care with this important decision. Residence abroad requires some knowledge of the language, an ability to adapt, and an interest in learning about different cultures. If family members are not a part of the decision, or lack the language skills or interest, the assignment may prove overwhelming and lead to failure. Sixty-four percent of expatriate respondents who terminated their assignment early indicated that family concerns were the primary reason. Contreras, C. D. (2009). Should you accept the international assignment? BNET . Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5350/is_200308/ai_n21334696

Points to consider include the following:

  • How flexible are you?
  • Do you need everything spelled out or can you go with the flow?
  • Can you adapt to new ways of doing business?
  • Are you interested in the host culture and willing to dedicate the time and put forth the effort to learn more about it?
  • What has been your experience to date working with people from distinct cultures?
  • What are your language skills at present, and are you interested in learning a new language?
  • Is your family supportive of the assignment?
  • How will it affect your children’s education? Your spouse’s career? Your career?
  • Will this assignment benefit your family?
  • How long are you willing to commit to the assignment?
  • What resources are available to help you prepare, move, and adjust?
  • Can you stand being out of the loop, even if you are in daily written and oral communication with the home office?
  • What is your relationship with your employer, and can it withstand the anticipated stress and tension that will result as not everything goes according to plan?
  • Is the cultural framework of your assignment similar to—or unlike—your own, and how ready are you to adapt to differences in such areas as time horizon, masculinity versus femininity, or direct versus indirect styles of communication?

This list of questions could continue, and feel free to add your own as you explore the idea of an international assignment. An international assignment is not like a domestic move or reassignment. Within the same country, even if there are significantly different local customs in place, similar rules, laws, and ways of doing business are present. In a foreign country, you will lose those familiar traditions and institutions and have to learn many new ways of accomplishing your given tasks. What once took a five-minute phone call may now take a dozen meetings and a month to achieve, and that may cause you some frustration. It may also cause your employer frustration as you try to communicate how things are done locally, and why results are not immediate, as they lack even your limited understanding of your current context. Your relationship with your employer will experience stress, and your ability to communicate your situation will require tact and finesse.

Successful expatriates are adaptable, open to learning new languages, cultures, and skilled at finding common ground for communication. Rather than responding with frustration, they learn the new customs and find the advantage to get the job done. They form relationships and are not afraid to ask for help when it is warranted or required. They feel secure in their place as explorer, and understand that mistakes are a given, even as they are unpredictable. Being a stranger is no easy task, but they welcome the challenge with energy and enthusiasm.

Acculturation Process

Acculturation The transition to living abroad. , or the transition to living abroad, is often described as an emotional rollercoaster. Steven Rhinesmith Rhinesmith, S. (1984). Returning home . Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Bureau for International Education. provides ten steps that show the process of acculturation, including culture shock, that you may experience:

  • Initial anxiety
  • Initial elation
  • Initial culture shock
  • Superficial adjustment
  • Depression-frustration
  • Acceptance of host culture
  • Return anxiety
  • Return elation
  • Reentry shock
  • Reintegration

Humans fear the unknown, and even if your tolerance for uncertainty is high, you may experience a degree of anxiety in anticipation of your arrival. At first the “honeymoon” period is observed, with a sense of elation at all the newfound wonders. You may adjust superficially at first, learning where to get familiar foods or new ways to meet your basic needs. As you live in the new culture, divergence will become a trend and you’ll notice many things that frustrate you. You won’t anticipate the need for two hours at a bank for a transaction that once took five minutes, or could be handled over the Internet, and find that businesses close during midday, preventing you from accomplishing your goals. At this stage, you will feel that living in this new culture is simply exhausting. Many expats advise that this is the time to tough it out—if you give in to the temptation to make a visit back home, you will only prolong your difficult adjustment.

Over time, if you persevere, you will come to accept and adjust to your host culture, and learn how to accomplish your goals with less frustration and ease. You may come to appreciate several cultural values or traits and come to embrace some aspects of your host culture. At some point, you will need to return to your first, or home, culture, but that transition will bring a sense of anxiety. People and places change, the familiar is no longer so familiar, and you too have changed. You may once again be elated at your return and the familiar, and experience a sense of comfort in home and family, but culture shock may again be part of your adjustment. You may look at your home culture in a new way and question things that are done in a particular way that you have always considered normal. You may hold onto some of the cultural traits you adopted while living abroad, and begin the process of reintegration.

You may also begin to feel that the “grass is greener” in your host country, and long to return. Expatriates are often noted for “going native,” or adopting the host culture’s way of life, but even the most confirmed expats still gather to hear the familiar sound of their first language, and find community in people like themselves who have blended cultural boundaries on a personal level.

Living and Working Abroad

In order to learn to swim you have to get in the water, and all the research and preparation cannot take the place of direct experience. Your awareness of culture shock may help you adjust, and your preparation by learning some of the language will assist you, but know that living and working abroad take time and effort. Still, there are several guidelines that can serve you well as you start your new life in a strange land:

  • Be open and creative . People will eat foods that seem strange or do things in a new way, and your openness and creativity can play a positive role in your adjustment. Staying close to your living quarters or surrounding yourself with similar expats can limit your exposure to and understanding of the local cultures. While the familiar may be comfortable, and the new setting may be uncomfortable, you will learn much more about your host culture and yourself if you make the effort to be open to new experiences. Being open involves getting out of your comfort zone.
  • Be self-reliant . Things that were once easy or took little time may now be challenging or consume your whole day. Focus on your ability to resolve issues, learn new ways to get the job done, and be prepared to do new things.
  • Keep a balanced perspective . Your host culture isn’t perfect. Humans aren’t perfect, and neither was your home culture. Each location and cultural community has strengths you can learn from if you are open to them.
  • Be patient . Take your time, and know a silent period is normal. The textbook language classes only provide a base from which you will learn how people who live in the host country actually communicate. You didn’t learn to walk in a day and won’t learn to successfully navigate this culture overnight either.
  • Be a student and a teacher . You are learning as the new member of the community, but as a full member of your culture, you can share your experiences as well.
  • Be an explorer . Get out and go beyond your boundaries when you feel safe and secure. Traveling to surrounding villages, or across neighboring borders, can expand your perspective and help you learn.
  • Protect yourself . Always keep all your essential documents, money, and medicines close to you, or where you know they will be safe. Trying to source a medicine in a country where you are not fluent in the language, or where the names of remedies are different, can be a challenge. Your passport is essential to your safety and you need to keep it safe. You may also consider vaccination records, birth certificates, or business documents in the same way, keeping them safe and accessible. You may want to consider a “bug-out bag,” with all the essentials you need, including food, water, keys, and small tools, as an essential part of planning in case of emergency.

Key Takeaways

Preparation is key to a successful international assignment. Living and working abroad takes time, effort, and patience.

  • Research one organization in a business or industry that relates to your major and has an international presence. Find a job announcement or similar document that discusses the business and its international activities. Share and compare with classmates.
  • Conduct a search on expat networks including online forum. Briefly describe your findings and share with classmates.
  • What would be the hardest part of an overseas assignment for you and why? What would be the easiest part of an overseas assignment for you and why?
  • Find an advertisement for an international assignment. Note the qualifications, and share with classmates.
  • Find an article or other first-person account of someone’s experience on an international assignment. Share your results with your classmates.
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global assignment

Quick reference.

Is a job assignment within a multinational corporation that involves expatriation; that is the relocation of an employee to another country. Specialists in international human resource management identify different types of global assignment. Technical assignments occur when employees with technical skills are sent from one country to another to fill a particular skill shortage. Developmental assignments, in contrast, are typically used within a management development programme and are used to equip managers with new skills and competencies. Strategic assignments arise when key executives are sent from one country to another to launch a product, develop a market or initiate another key change in business strategy. Finally, functional assignments resemble technical assignments but differ in one important respect. Technical assignments do not require the assignee to interact extensively with employees in the host country but this is a requirement of functional assignments and for this reason assignees are often prepared through cross-cultural training.

From:   global assignment   in  A Dictionary of Human Resource Management »

Subjects: Social sciences — Business and Management

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Delivering A Successful International Assignment

  • Anne Morris
  • 9 October 2019

IN THIS SECTION

  • 8 minute read
  • Last updated: 9th October 2019

Organisations deploy personnel on international assignment for many reasons. Whether you are addressing an internal skills gaps, supporting leadership development or looking to improve working relations across borders, for any international assignment to be successful, there will be a multitude of legal, immigration, tax and pensions risks to manage when sending employees overseas.

This article covers:

International assignment objectives, international assignment structures, employment law.

  • Immigration options 

Assignee remuneration

Professional support for international assignments.

Global mobility programmes have traditionally been developed with a uniform approach, driven largely by cost management and operational efficiencies. However, organisations are increasingly taking a more flexible and bespoke approach to overseas assignments in order to attain advantage in areas such as compliance and talent development and retention.

While a one-size-fits-all approach to the fundamentals of mobility management may be a commercial reality, overlaying this should be areas of specific consideration and capability that can be adapted to the specific needs and risks of each international assignment. This allows for greater focus on the assignment’s commercial objectives and the agility to respond to the organisation’s changing global mobility needs .

From the outset of any successful assignment project, there should be clarity of objectives. Why as an organisation is the decision being made to invest in sending an employee to perform services in a different country?

International assignments can offer value in many areas, many of which typically present in the longer-term.

Internal knowledge transfer is a common assignment objective to address talent or skills shortages within overseas regions. Deploying key talent with specialist knowledge and skills to train and upskill local team members can help to resolve local labour or skill supply issues. The cost/benefit analysis can explore potential missed opportunities or delays resulting from shortages in the local talent market.

International assignments are also highly effective in building relationships and improving intercultural working. This could be relationships within an organisation, with local clients and intermediaries or local authorities. Face to face interaction remains highly effective and valuable in building influence on the ground and can offer significant potential for advantage over competitors.

Beyond relationships, value is also created in the knowledge gained by assignees working overseas, from insight into local customs and culture, improved language capability and a general understanding of how business is ‘done’ within the region and helping to adapt organisational protocol to suit the local environment. Combined with the assignee’s existing market and organisational knowledge, they can offer a global perspective with local details, bringing considerable potential to build competitive differentiation.

With clarity of objective, you can then consider whether an international assignment is the most appropriate solution . Is it possible to hire or promote locally? Would multiple, shorter trips be as effective in performance terms but with lower cost implications? International assignments demand significant investment and it will be important to assess cost projections against expected return and value to the organisation.

As well as clarity of objectives, a successful international assignment also requires clarity of contractual terms, both to manage the expectations and understanding of the assignee, and also for the mobility team to identify support needs and potential risks. 

Now more than ever, organisations are developing portfolios of mobility programmes to enable an agile approach to global mobility that responds to the organisation’s changing needs for international personnel mobility. Assignments come in increasingly different shapes and sizes, from permanent relocations or temporary exchanges, secondments or transfers to a different region or to a different organisation.

While organisations demand greater flexibility and agility from their global mobility programmes, underpinning the activity should be an appropriate assignment structure with a supporting contractual agreement that enables compliance with regulatory and legal duties.

When considering which structure to adopt, organisations will need to consider a range of factors including the type of assignment and the relevant environmental context such as regulatory, immigration, employment law, tax, pension implications. 

For international assignments, where the employee is moving from the home country employer to a host country employer, the employer could consider a number of assignment structures, including:

  • The employee continues to be employed solely by the home employer.
  • The employment contract with the home employer is suspended for the duration of the assignment while the employee enters into a new employment contract with the host employer .
  • The employment contract with the home employer is terminated with a promise of re-employment at the end of the assignment while the employee enters into a new employment contract with the host employer .
  • The employment contract with the home employer is suspended and the employee enters into a contract with an international assignment company (IAC) within the employer group
  • The employment contract with the home employer is suspended and the employee enters into a contract with both an IAC and the host country employer.
  • The employee remains resident in the home country and works in a host country under a commuter assignment.  

Each type of assignment structure offers advantages and disadvantages which should be considered in light of the individual assignment. For example: 

  • Do employment laws in the host country require the assignee to be employed by a local entity? 
  • Would the assignee be agreeable to ending their home country contract and starting a new agreement with a new entity in the host country? 
  • Are there terms in the home country contract that would need protecting in any new agreement, such as restrictive covenants? 
  • Which jurisdiction would prevail, the host or home country? 
  • How would local laws interpret a situation where there is no contract of employment with the employer in the host country? 
  • Issues such as income and corporate tax, pension and employment rights and responsibilities will need to be identified and assessed against the specific assignment objectives and budget and the assignee profile and circumstances. 

Employment law implications come hand-in-hand with selecting an appropriate assignment structure.

Home-country employment contracts for employees on assignment from the UK to an overseas jurisdiction should generally be interpreted under the laws of England and Wales. If a host country contract is used, there should be specific provision in the agreement to determine which jurisdiction would prevail. However, neither position is guaranteed, for example where issues of domicile arise which may supersede any contractual provisions. Again the need is to assess on an individual assignment basis.

As well as explicit contractual considerations, employers should also be aware of any statutory rights or implied terms under UK law that may continue to apply even in the host country.

Specific provisions may also need to be made to ensure confidentiality and appropriate handling of commercial and sensitive information. While this may be standard or expected for senior employees, those on assignment should also be considered for such terms relevant to the type of assignment and the commercial objectives of the project.

Immigration options

Successful international assignments will invariably require careful consideration of the immigration requirements. Governments across the globe are adopting increasingly protectionist stances towards economic migrants, as policies seek to favour domestic workers. This means business travellers and visa holders are now facing greater scrutiny when applying for work visas and when trying to gain entry at the border. 

Visa options and criteria vary between countries and are subject to frequent change. Where permission is required for the assignee to work in the host country, it will be important to ensure the assignee applies for the most appropriate route to meet the assignment need, whether that is a work permit or a business visitor visa. The immigration requirements and options will be determined in most part by the rules of the home and host countries, the nationality of the assignee (and any of their dependants who will be joining them overseas) and the nature of the activities the assignee intends to perform during their time in the host country. 

For example, a British citizen may be eligible to travel to the US to attend sales meetings and work conferences for up to 90 days  without having to apply for a visa but to conduct ‘gainful employment’ they would need to look at a specific work visa, such as the L-1 visa for intracompany  transfers. 

A further factor will be the specific requirements of the visa or permit. Work visas, for example, may require sponsorship of the employee by a local entity with valid sponsor status. The application process for work visas are typically resource-intensive and in many cases will require the employer to provide compelling evidence as to why the role or work cannot be performed by a worker resident in the host country. 

Preparation will, therefore, be critical, ensuring there is sufficient time to consider the relevant immigration options in light of local rules, and to then make the required application. Complications may also arise where the employee does not meet certain requirements under the local rules, for example if they have a past criminal conviction or negative immigration record. This will require careful handling and, depending on the host country’s rules, may require submission of a visa waiver to explain the issue and provide assurances of the employee’s eligibility by requesting a discretionary decision on the application.

Relocation packages are typically the biggest expense associated with an international assignment. While cost control will remain a concern, it is important for employers to ensure they are offering packages that are competitive within the market and that the package will support both the commercial objective of the assignment and compliance with associated legal and tax risks.

Home-based packages remain common, including those which may be markedly above local market compensation levels, particularly in circumstanecs where the assignment need is business-critical.

It may be possible however to look at offering a lower package than the home-based option, by either localising the package to harmonise with host nation levels or to develop a ‘local-plus’ offering that maintains a degree of competition, but this can be challenging to apply consistently across all assignment types and locations.

Again, consideration should be given to the individual assignment and the assignee. Millennial workers for example are generally understood to value international experience and the remuneration package may not be their primary concern where the opportunity for overseas exposure is available.

For organisations with a substantial cohort of international assignees and travellers, it may be more appropriate to build a compensation scheme specifically for globally-mobile personnel.

Importantly, assignees who will remain under an employment contract in their home country may continue to be subject to home country payroll while on assignment. This will also enable pension and benefits to be offered in the same way through the home country. Taxation, however, raises more complex issues, for example where withholding rules apply in the host country. This will require specialist guidance to ensure tax liabilities in the home and host country are correctly managed and met withiin the appropriate timeframes.

International assignments are demanding on the employer and the employee, but have become critical given the business imperatives to meet talent and development needs and achieve competitive advantage . 

Employers should not lose sight of the need to understand the specific risks of each individual assignment, which increasingly demand bespoke solutions. While compliance , efficiencies and cost control should be underpinned by a solid global mobility infrastructure of policies, systems and procedures, the current shift is away from a uniform approach to assignment management, instead moving towards more agile management of each assignment, shaped by the specific assignment objectives, budget and risks in relation to immigration, tax, remuneration and employment law.

DavidsonMorris’ specialist global mobility consultants provide expert guidance to employers on all aspects of international assignments, from programme management and implementation to strategic consultancy to ensure value and return on the mobility investment. We understand the commercial drivers behind mobilising workers and the need to ensure compliance without impacting return on mobility investment.

We work with senior management teams, HR and mobility professionals to develop strategies that ensure effective compliance risk management while supporting delivery of the organisation’s global mobility objectives. For advice on making the most of international assignments, speak to us .

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility .

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners , we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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what is the meaning of the international assignment

Managing International Assignments: Compensation Approaches

A new international assignment landscape is challenging traditional compensation approaches

For many years, expatriate compensation has been focused on a dilemma: having assignees on expensive home-based expatriate package versus localization - which is about replacing expatriates with locals or at least transition expatriates from an expatriate package to a local salary. Many predicted that the traditional home-based balance sheet approach would gradually disappear. The predictions of the demise of the typical expatriate approach have been greatly exaggerated. We are witnessing the emergence of new compensation challenges instead, due to the complexity of having to manage multiple types of assignments and assignee categories.

The home-based approach still retains its utility for certain kinds of moves (e.g. business-critical assignments or moves to hardship locations). Local strategies are becoming more common but, due to the difficulty of applying them consistently in all transfer destinations, they are used only in some cases (moves between similar countries, developmental moves) and take multiple forms as “purely local” or local-plus approaches. Additional approaches like international compensation structures have emerged to address issues of global nomads.

The challenge for HR managers is, therefore, not so much to find the best approach applicable for all assignments as to deal with individual assignment complexity, envisage greater mobility policy segmentation and, if relevant for the company, map each compensation approach to a particular assignment in a consistent way.

The increasingly complex international assignment landscape: One size does not fit all anymore

Expatriates vs. Locals

One size fits all?

Let's localize assignees as soon as possible!

Expatriates

Rise of the third-country nationals

Need to add a cost efficient category for junior employees/developmental moves?

Traditional expatriates

Global nomads

Permanent transfers

Employee-initiated moves

Local or local plus?

Foreigners hired locally

Commuters (cross-border or regional

Multiple types of short-term/project/rotational assignments

Increasing number of home locations

Reviewing international assignment approaches in three steps:

Step 1: Understand the options available

Approaches linked to the host country (local or local-plus)

While these approaches sound logical and natural (when relocating assignees to a new country, they will be paid according to the local salary structure in that destination country) their practical implementation is often tricky. Few employees accept a salary decrease when moving to a low-paying country. It is often difficult to reintegrate assignees relocated to a high-paying country into their original salary structure due to their inflated base salary.

The host approach was historically not the most common for assignees on long-term assignments. However, we have witnessed a growing interest in recent years in host-based approaches – either a host approach or local-plus approach (host salary plus selected benefits or premiums) – as companies are trying to contain costs and as significant salary increases in many emerging markets make host strategies more attractive.

Approaches linked to the home country ("balance sheets")

Home-based approaches have been traditionally the most commonly used to compensate international assignees. Assignees on a home-based approach retain their home-country salary and receive a suite of allowances and premiums designed to cover the costs linked to expatriation. The equalization logic behind the balance sheet approach (no gain/no loss) encourages mobility by removing obstacles. Retaining the home-country salary facilitates repatriation. The balance sheet approach can, however, be costly. Many companies either look for alternatives or try to reduce the benefits and premiums included for less significant moves.

Other Solutions

Hybrid approaches attempt to combine the advantages of the home and host-based approaches. These often mean running a balance sheet calculation and comparing the results with the host market salary to determine what solution would make sense. A hybrid approach can work well for a small assignee population but it can generate inconsistencies when companies expand globally, and the assignee population grows significantly.

Finally, some companies rely on international compensation structures that do not use the host and the home structures at all. These might utilize the average salary in a selected group of high-paying countries where the companies operate. This approach facilitates mobility for global nomads and highly mobile employees. It is, however, often very expensive and doesn’t solve all assignment-related issues (e.g., currency issues, pension, taxation). It is typically used in specific industry sectors (e.g., energy and engineering) and for a few assignees (top level managers and global nomads.)

Step 2: Assessing assignment patterNs and business objectives

Assignment patterns

Are assignees moving between countries with similar salary levels, which would make the use of local or local plus easier or, on the contrary, are expatriates sent to host countries with different pay and benefits structures (low-paying to high-paying, or high-paying to low-paying country moves)? Are moves for a fixed duration – e.g., assignments lasting one to five years – or will the company rely on permanent transfers with no guarantee of repatriation?

Assignee Population

Are assignees coming mainly from the headquarter countries (typical for early stages of globalization) or is the number of third-country nationals already significant? A growing number of multinational companies report that the number of moves between emerging markets (“lateral moves”) is catching up with or exceeding the number from the headquarters, prompting a review of compensation approaches.

Are some assignees becoming true global nomads who move from country to country without returning home during their career? Employees, and especially the younger generations, are becoming much more mobile, but only a minority would be global nomads. These assignees are usually top-level managers, experts with unique skills, or globally mobile talent sourced from small or emerging countries where the absence of career opportunities perspective would preclude repatriation perspectives.

Company's philosophy and sector

Some industry sectors like services and finances relocate employees between major regional and financial hubs which facilitate the use of local approach, whereas energy and engineering companies transferred employees to hardship locations are a key feature of the business – and requires comprehensive expatriation packages often based on balance sheets and international salary structures.

Step 3: Assess segmentation needs

An increasing number of companies rely on expatriate policy segmentation to reconcile the cost control versus international expansion dilemma – how to have the same number of assignments or more without increasing the budget dedicated to international mobility. Segmentation means reallocating part of the budget to business critical assignees and limits the costs of non-essential moves.

Some of the commonly used assignment categories include strategic moves (business-critical), developmental moves (which benefit both the company and the employee), and self-requested move (requested by the employee but not essential to the business).

A consistent policy segmentation approach allows HR teams to present business cases or assignment options to management and provide a clearer understanding of the cost and business implications of relocation for different assignees.

It could also help manage exceptions into a well-defined framework based on a consistent talent management approach, as opposed to ad hoc deals.

Example of segmented compensation approach: the four-box model

Chart showing segmented compensation approach: the four-box model

Want to learn more about Expatriate Compensation Approaches?

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Will it boost or harm your career?

  • February 1, 2021

There is no suspicion that working abroad is romantic. Living in a culture with different languages, habits, and working styles is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience. It can not only much promote your career development, but also broaden your horizons. However, what many companies now call “global” assignments has some disadvantages. Some parts of the world are indeed dangerous for some visitors, but in most postings worldwide, the challenges are related to different cultures and ways of doing business. Here are some pros and cons of an international assignment to help you decide if it is a smart career move.

Table of Contents

Pros of international assignment, international work experience.

Indeed, the world is growing and becoming more and more mobile and accessible. This is the main driving force. Business leaders today are not geographically constrained. Work experience in an international corporate environment and culture is often described as a prerequisite for most senior positions at major international companies. Instantly add diverse and multicultural elements to your portfolio and experiences to make them more appealing to your position on a global scale.

Global companies are paying more and more attention to international diversity, and there is no sign that this trend stops. Therefore, the overseas experience gained by international mission professionals will help those seeking senior management positions. If you are one of these ambitious professionals, the question should be whether you can afford not to participate in the international assignment?

The company devotes substantial resources to expats international assignments. Allocation itself is usually performed for a specific purpose, and ROI is an important goal. For example, you can transfer assignees with specific skills to a new location to lead a project that is considered essential. Therefore, being selected for a job is usually a compliment, but it is also an opportunity. A successful project overview allows you to prove that you are the assignee and develop your career from the benefits of success. If you can withstand the pressure, then your international assignment can prove beneficial. Are you ready to move forward and succeed?

Experience Different Ways of Doing Business

Learning a particular field and working in that field in the same country means a fairly fixed set of expectations and assumptions. Overall, understanding how other countries treat your industry and business can be an excellent way to open yourself to new ways of doing things. The best part? Wherever you are, you will get these learning outcomes.

Diversify Your Income

When it is difficult to predict what will happen politically, earning income in different currencies is an excellent way to diversify risks and protect the financial future. For example, in the past two years, the pound sterling value has changed 30% from the value of the euro. If you are particularly interested in the domestic economy, relocation is still a way to obtain better salaries and employment opportunities in a more stable business environment.

Explore the world

If you are passionate about traveling, nothing is better than working abroad. Not only you experience the country more deeply, but you can also get rewarded for it. You do not need to spend two weeks to get to know the country’s culture and personality directly. This is also an excellent opportunity to explore neighboring countries. If you are learning a language, immersion in the countryside is also an excellent way to quickly improve your skills.

Cross-Cultural Communication

Cons of an international assignment, emotional problems.

Life as an expat is a rewarding experience. However, it can be challenging. Loneliness, culture shock, and nostalgia usually overwhelm foreigners, and not all migrants are ready to face this strong, perhaps new emotion. The combination of pain and diligence described above has reportedly resulted in high burnout among professional immigrants.

Less Job Flexibility

You love your new country, but do you hate work? Unlike going home, if your position is not suitable for you, you can shop here. Working abroad may mean that your job is linked to your visa. Even if you are not restricted by a visa, your lack of language skills and local experience may limit your escape options.

Interrupted Career Progression

For outsiders, “Out of sight, out of mind” can be a very familiar word. Even if you live in the same company, you do not go out every day or work in different time zones. This means that good impressions are slowly disappearing and are no longer the number one promotion. In the country of visit, it may be necessary to take a junior position due to a lack of local experience or limited language skills, which can feel like a step back professionally.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Among foreigners who cannot establish the necessary business relationships or live daily lives, posting emails in places where there is a tremendous cultural difference or where communication in a new language is required can cause trouble. Non-traditional families, such as gay couples, may face cultural resistance and pressure, making assignment management difficult in the long run

Legal risks

Domestic work laws and regulations regarding wages, taxes, and pensions usually differ between residents and foreigners. As with immigration requirements, compliance with legal requirements must be ensured.

Technological change

Your country’s technology can lag foreign countries for several years. After returning home, it may take several months to digest all the changes.

As global mobility increases, many employees want foreign stamps on their passports to support their personal growth and career development. They are increasingly looking for commuters, rotational, expatriate, or other alternative jobs to build resumes. International assignments are an essential tool for international career development. In this case, employees with international experience are the greater wealth for the organization.

Some potential business traveling international career in which global travel is usually necessary like international accountant, marketing and sales International missions help improve cultural literacy, promote foreign language learning, expand professionals’ network, and broaden their horizons. But of course there are always pros and cons of an international assignment.

If you need a Global Digital Nomad insurance, make sure to check out SafetyWing.   Booking through this link will get you a 5% discount. 

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Republicans want to limit migrants entering the U.S. Will it affect asylum-seekers?

NPR's A Martinez talks to Kennji Kizuka of the International Rescue Committee about what proposed Republican changes to immigration policy could mean for asylum-seekers.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's a new year, but a familiar fight is returning to Washington. The White House will resume talks with congressional Republicans on funding Ukraine's war effort and there are signs that the White House may need to give up some political ground to get it, specifically on immigration. GOP lawmakers are proposing a tougher standard for asylum claims. Earlier, our co-host A Martínez spoke to Kennji Kizuka about this. He is the director of asylum policy for the International Rescue Committee. Kizuka started by explaining what happens under the current process.

KENNJI KIZUKA: Once an asylum seeker has told an officer they want to seek asylum, the officer can choose to do a couple of things. They could let that person go on to immigration court and present their asylum claim to a judge or they might put them in what's called expedited removal, which is a kind of fast-track deportation. And if they are placed in that fast-track deportation, they're going to have to speak to an asylum officer to show that they have a strong chance that they're eligible for asylum in order to stay in the country and to be able to continue the asylum process.

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: What qualifies them to think that they can qualify for asylum?

KIZUKA: So asylum isn't for everyone. It doesn't apply to every kind of issue that might push someone to leave their country. It's a form of protection for people who fear persecution based on their race, their religion, their ethnicity, because of their political opinions or because they're part of a group that's being persecuted, like based on their sexual orientation or gender.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So now Senate Republicans are trying to change the standard, and they want asylum requests to go from a significant possibility of persecution to more likely than not. What's the difference between those two?

KIZUKA: So the current standard is called credible fear. And that means that a person has a significant possibility or a good chance to show that if they went to immigration court they would be able to prove that they were eligible for asylum. The proposals that we're seeing in Congress would raise that standard and essentially require people to prove their entire asylum case in the initial screening interview. So the process of these initial screenings that were meant to ensure that people are not returned to danger would, in essence, flip and become the whole game, that you have to show and prove your whole case in that initial screening instead of it being a gateway to the rest of the process.

MARTÍNEZ: To have to prove everything - as you said, the whole game - right there on the spot, it seems like that's an almost impossible standard to meet.

KIZUKA: For many people, the screening interview is already really difficult. You're sitting in a little booth in a detention center, talking to an officer on the other side of the country over the phone. There's an interpreter on the phone. You're not seeing anyone face to face to be able to explain what happened to you, and you're talking about the worst things that ever happened to you in your life - having to share that you were raped or tortured, having to talk about parts of your identity that were causing you to be persecuted, that you were practicing your faith in secret or that you were being persecuted because of your sexual orientation. And so these interviews were already so high stakes and so emotionally difficult for people. Imagine, on top of that, knowing that now, in this interview, you basically have to prove your whole case right there, right on the spot, as soon as you arrive. The kind of pressure that puts on someone who's already been through so much is really hard to imagine.

MARTÍNEZ: Should it be a higher standard than what's already in place to be granted asylum to the United States?

KIZUKA: The issue that Congress is really grappling with here is that they want to see fewer people arrive at the Southern border, and that's not an issue about the asylum standard. The thought that that changing this credible fear standard would see fewer people arrive to the United States is a mistake. It's not going to happen. When people's lives are on the line, they're going to flee, and they're going to seek any opportunity that might save themselves and their family. And so these changes we're seeing proposed to the asylum standard aren't going to address the humanitarian issues we're seeing at the border but they will result in people who have genuine fears of persecution being returned to the place where they're in danger.

MARTÍNEZ: Kennji Kizuka with the International Rescue Committee. Kennji, thank you very much for explaining all this.

KIZUKA: Thanks so much for having me.

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01 March 2016

The value of an international assignment is as important as the cost

Phil renshaw, companies are surprisingly poor at calculating the value of international assignments while fully counting the cost. cue the finance function to help, says phil renshaw.

UK_YCORP_Mobility

This article was first published in the March 2016 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

Despite the ever increasing use of international assignments to address business needs, most organisations have little direct evidence as to whether these are sensible investments. This presents an opportunity for finance and HR professionals, working together, to deliver value – putting a stop to wasteful assignments and expanding those that generate clear business benefits.

The belief that international assignments are core to building global businesses and to developing leaders continues to grow. A shortage of global talent is regularly cited as an obstacle for businesses looking to grow. The big accountancy firms, such as KPMG and PwC, require candidates for partnership to have an overseas assignment under their belt.

Surprisingly, most organisations do not appear to realise the value of international assignments. According to the 2015 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices by consultancy Mercer, 90% of organisations do not use any metrics to track their international assignment programmes. 

The key to changing this is for finance business partners and HR professionals everywhere to work together to develop clear processes, with a common language and a joint understanding of what is a useful metric, or metrics, by which success can be evaluated.

The principles are straightforward. Indeed, there is arguably little new involved. Rather, it’s about challenging the myriad myths that cause people to doubt whether they can determine the return on investment (ROI) of an international assignment. The divide between finance and HR needs to be crossed to improve business outcomes.

Cost over value

Often the business decides it wants to send an individual to an overseas location before involving HR. So actions are driven by specific and immediate business operational needs, with little consideration of strategic issues or career development. Surprisingly, possibly because HR colleagues are the operational experts in this instance, businesses tend not to create a business case assessment including the long-term objectives of all the parties involved: they have decided that ‘sending Sarah’ is the solution, and that HR and finance just need to arrange for her to get there.

Patrick Hepplewhite, head of global mobility at HSBC, acknowledges that despite an excellent reputation for successful international assignments, HSBC has been able to gather relevant global data to assess their impact only in the last few months. This, though, has put a positive spotlight on them. However, even here, the data is mostly cost-based and the HSBC ROI measures are aspirational, although they are at least clearly identified as measures: completion of the international assignment objectives, assignee retention over the medium term, assignee performance ratings and appropriate succession planning.

Unfortunately, while HR and global mobility colleagues generally want to have a discussion about value, they are asked only for cost information. As this is much easier to identify and predict when compared with value parameters, and given that the business appears to have made its decision already, parties continue to talk cost instead of value. This reinforces the perception held by many that the value side of the equation is intangible and too difficult to calculate. People are often heard to say that you cannot calculate the ROI on an international assignment. Finance and HR together need to change this.

Return journey

The term ROI seems to trip many people up. It is perceived as meaning a single number – often a concept based on net present value (NPV). But there are numerous ways to determine ROI, with no single winner-beats-all definition. In a purely financial investment, we would expect to assess various measures such as NPV, cash and payback periods, yet all with a clear understanding of the risk parameters. This approach enables the assessment of intangible items – for example, the political risk in a different country and how it might affect the calculations. In exactly the same way, the ROI of an international assignment should be thought of as a package of metrics referencing the wider context.

In finance any business case evaluation requires expert opinion. After all, basic accountancy teaches that several different values could be put on an office chair, and all would be reasonable. In any business case evaluation, judgments need to be made, and the facts recorded that have led to these, both for audit purposes and to improve future assessments. When implementing new software, for example, a judgment has to be made on how much to spend on training people to make best use of the software. Finance business partners work with colleagues using their experience and challenging questions to find answers to such potentially intangible questions and put a value on them. The same principles apply to international assignments. If part of an international assignment business case is to improve José’s leadership skills, there is a need to record which skills, by when, how they will be assessed and what value this will be judged to have for the organisation.

Expert opinion applies to the cost side too. It is easy to assume that the costs of an international assignment are straightforward. This is not the case given the impact of time, context and intended outcomes. A range of potentially uncertain issues has to be considered, including tax implications (accidentally creating a local domicile for a company is not desirable), cross-cultural training, family support, security and travel risks, and repatriation costs. All involve estimates based on HR’s expert opinion. All should be assessed in relation to the value created by the international assignment.

Tri-party value

So what might the value be? The answers are derived by identifying the objectives of the exercise. This is hardly new, yet it consistently fails to happen in practice. In particular, businesses fail to capture the objectives of all three parties involved – the home business (sending the individual), the individual and the host business (receiving the individual). Once objectives are clarified, owners and accountability can be assigned to determine the overall business case – and track its success.

At its simplest, the value could be revenue and profit generated by a business development manager, or the costs avoided in sending an operations expert to ensure a technical department operates smoothly. In all cases, the value has to be assessed in comparison with the alternative, if there is one, such as hiring a local person. We are in the realm of using expert opinion. This is what finance business partners bring to the game naturally. Working together with HR will do so for international assignments.

Of course, designing metrics that do not relate to the organisation’s broader values does not work for international assignments in the same way as for other investments. Tracking employee retention is not sensible if it is not an organisational driver. Consider the intangible issues, such as greater global process consistency, and then identify tangible or financial proxies for the goals to enable measurement – for example, savings achieved.

The potential to be gained from effective international assignments is huge. While some parties will only ever see the significant costs of international assignment and refuse to support it, positive changes can still be made. The solution lies in the hands of HR and finance professionals coming together to share their expertise to agree their organisation’s specific ROI metrics and the mechanisms through which to capture the relevant data. Establish a process, use shared language and track the outcomes.

International assignments are no different from general business investments. By investing time in discussions, a template for the ROI analysis can be created to guide future calculations. The ROI from the investment of that time ought to be clear.

Phil Renshaw is a research fellow at ifs University College and doctoral researcher specialising in the value and impact of international assignments 

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Types of Global Assignments: which one is best for each of your relocations?

Both companies and staff have a lot to gain with corporate relocation. Businesses have many options when choosing their global mobility strategy, and knowing the different types of global assignments can help them decide on their strategy.

With a diverse global mobility portfolio, organizations can maximize their ROI by ensuring they choose the most appropriate and cost-effective assignment, whether concerning the duration of the assignment, location or its overall strategic goal.

Let’s look at the different types of global assignments.

Short vs. Long term global assignments

An assignment is a type of relocation within a global corporation or joint venture that requires the employee to relocate, specifically to another country, and work there for a set amount of time.

We consider “short-term assignments “those that take place within less than a year; and a “long-term assignment” when the predetermined time is greater than that. Short-term assignments are usually associated with specific projects with shorter timelines, while long-term assignments are more broadly strategic. Long-term assignments are quite labour intensive for companies and their relocation partners because of compensation and taxes.

International commuter assignment

An alternative to traditional global assignments, a commuter assignment happens when an employee lives a few days of the week in the country they work in and frequently returns to their home country.

International commuters are not defined by a specific type or length of the assignment. Some are actually classic relocations, with the employee returning home regularly, possibly on weekends or for a full week every month. Others are less organized “frequent flier” assignments in which the employee travels between countries without a fixed schedule (HR – important! You should always have a way of tracking time spent in the destination country). Sometimes, assignee reluctance to leave their family for short-term assignments results in the company choosing a commuter assignment. This may not always be the best solution for the project (should someone else be considered?)

Extended business travel

Extended Business Travel (EBT) is an umbrella term for frequent business travellers – who travel for business to different countries regularly -, and extended business travellers – who travel for business to another country for an extended period.

As businesses attempt to reduce reliance on traditional assignment types, EBT is a way to respond to demands in other regions of the world or even within the same country. Yet, it is important to pay attention to the duration of the stay. Extended business travel is not without its disadvantages. Tracking time spent at a destination may be harder because the rules around extended business travel are looser. There may be health care coverage concerns. And when extended business travel exceeds 183 days, the agreement might trigger tax obligations in host countries. But other destination country rules may trigger tax without crossing the threshold of 183 days. Finally, extended business travel may be exhausting for the employee and cause stress at home.

Is your company thinking of relocating personnel internationally? Strategic considerations play a role in determining whether to create a long or short-term assignment and overall cost and tax ramifications. Employee hesitancy may mean a commuter assignment over a short-term assignment, but commuter assignment can have a lot of hidden costs. Work with a Relocation Management Company to determine which kind of global assignment works best for your particular situation.

One final word about short-term commuter assignments and extended business travel: it is very important to implement systems to monitor employees’ travel. The company and employee may be liable for tax withholding payments or financial penalties. One problem at companies with low global mobility is that short-term and commuter assignments are often decided upon at short notice at the level of the individual specialist departments, bypassing HR.  This means risk to the company including reputational risk with government authorities. HR should be at the center of relocation, be it long-term, permanent, or shorter-term varieties.

Let All Points help you with this decision. Contact us to learn more.

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What Is Portfolio Diversification?

What Is Portfolio Diversification?

Risk is an inevitable part of investing, but you can manage the risks you take by diversifying. 

Diversification is one of the most basic and popular investing strategies available to all manner of investors, from the most sophisticated hedge funds and pension funds to college grads opening their first 401(k)s.

The idea behind diversification is simple: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. 

Instead of, say, betting your entire savings on the stock of a single, favorite company, you aim to own stocks of several companies in different industries and some other types of investments such as bonds. 

Having a balanced mix protects you in case any particular investment you own has a bad year. “You never know which asset class is going to be in favor or out of favor for the year,” says Amy Arnott, a portfolio strategist at Morningstar in Chicago.

Building a well-diversified portfolio can be as straightforward or as complex as you make it. Here’s what you need to know.

What is diversification?

Diversification is a way to reduce risk in your portfolio by dividing your money across different assets. If you haven’t thought about diversification before, you should: It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to lower your investing risk.

Think about it this way: If you plan to invest in the stock market, and you put all your money in a single stock, there is a small chance the stock you pick will turn out to be the next Apple or Google, and you will get rich. There is also a chance the single stock you pick will go bankrupt and you will lose your entire investment. 

Much more likely than either of these outcomes, however, is that you will pick a stock that delivers more or less average long-term performance with many ups and downs—often gut-wrenching downs—along the way. 

With diversification, you accept that reality—and turn it to your advantage. 

When you diversify your portfolio, you hedge your bets by buying a number of different stocks (as well as bonds, and perhaps other assets). In the long run, you can assume your portfolio’s overall performance will match the long-term average of each of the different stocks in your portfolio.

But—and here is the magic of diversification—you do it without the anxiety-inducing highs and lows you’d endure if you owned any one of those stocks (or bonds) on its own. 

That’s because in a year when some stocks are up, others will be down. As long as the stocks in your portfolio don’t move in lockstep, then the peaks and valleys of performance will cancel each other out. 

Diversification’s ability to smooth your portfolio’s overall volatility—without sacrificing (long-term average) performance—is the reason it’s such a popular strategy. 

“Diversification is what a lot of economists call a free lunch,” notes Michael Finke, a financial advisor and professor of wealth management at The American College of Financial Services in King of Prussia, Pa. “It’s the only way to consistently get a higher return for the same amount of risk.”

Pros and cons of diversification

A well-diversified portfolio can offer the following benefits:

  • More consistent returns. If your portfolio’s fate doesn’t hinge on the performance of any single investment, then you often improve your returns over time. That’s because one year’s winner could just as easily become next year’s loser, and investing in various assets increases the probability you always have at least some winners to offset losers. What’s more, investing in a broad mix of assets will help you capture gains in the best-performing market at any particular time. 
  • New investment opportunities. Diversification lets you dabble in flashy investments, think cryptocurrency, where price moves are dictated by different factors than in the stock or bond markets. If you want to add one of these “alternative” assets to your portfolio, you can do so in small doses that add to, rather than upend, your overall mix of assets. 

That said, there are some potential downsides to diversification that include:

  • Potentially lower returns. A well-diversified portfolio provides more consistent returns over the long-term, but at the cost of potentially lower returns year-to-year. You won’t fully benefit from the highflying individual stocks—and a particularly bad year for one type of asset, such as bonds, could actually drag down the overall performance of your portfolio.
  • Extra maintenance. If you invest in individual stocks, there’s a cost in terms of the time it will take to manage your portfolio, monitor and track each company you’re invested in, and ensure it stays well-diversified over time. 
  • Potential pitfalls. Investors who don’t fully understand diversification can fall into some pitfalls, such as loading up their portfolio with too-similar assets that don’t provide any diversification benefits or unintentionally making a big bet on a risky slice of a certain market, like shares of companies with the smallest market values. 
  • Higher costs. If you venture into investing in new assets like cryptocurrency or buy specialized funds in lieu of low-cost index funds, for example, you could face higher investing-related costs. What’s more, if you own some individual stocks that are dictating your portfolio’s performance and you opt to sell some of your holdings to better diversify your portfolio, you could be on the hook to pay capital-gains taxes.

How to build a diversified portfolio

You may want to deviate from a 60/40 portfolio based on your age, investing goals, and how much risk you can stomach. For example, T. Rowe Price recommends the following guidelines for asset allocations :

How to Invest Your Portfolio Based on Your Age

General guidelines for how to invest your retirement money:

Source: T. Rowe Price

While diversification typically means your portfolio will include many different stocks and bonds, achieving this doesn’t need to be complicated. You could build a well-diversified portfolio by buying just two index mutual funds or exchange-traded funds—one that tracks the performance of the total U.S. stock market and another that tracks the U.S. bond market . This strategy, while simple, doesn’t skimp on diversification benefits because each fund is made up of dozens, if not hundreds, of different securities.

“For 80% to 90% of people, ETFs are the way to go because they offer instant diversification, they’re tax-efficient, and they’re low-cost,” says Derek Horstmeyer, a professor of finance at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. 

6 components of a diversified portfolio

U.S. stocks and bonds are the cornerstone of a well-diversified portfolio. Whether you focus on additional diversification strategies is up to you—you can choose your own adventure.

However you go about diversifying your portfolio, keep this guidepost in mind: Any particular asset—like an individual stock—should represent no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio’s value. Beyond this threshold, this investment will pose a greater risk to your overall portfolio, notes Roger Young, a financial planner with T. Rowe Price based in the Baltimore area. 

Common components of a diversified portfolio include U.S. and international stocks, government and corporate bonds, gold, cash, and cryptocurrency. Here’s what to know about each. 

Domestic Stocks

Stocks are among the riskiest investments, and often experience wild price swings in the short-term. Patient investors are often rewarded with higher returns, but you must be prepared to ride out some turbulence when investing in stocks.

A portfolio invested 100% in the U.S. stock market delivered a quite-healthy average annual return of 12% between 1926 and 2021, according to data compiled by Vanguard. But there were some bumps along the way: That same portfolio lost value during more than one-quarter of those years (see below.) 

If you opt to buy individual stocks , achieving “peak diversification” isn’t as difficult as you may think. A 2021 study co-authored by Horstmeyer found that adding more stocks to an investment portfolio made it less volatile until it included about 20 stocks—after that, the benefit was negligible. 

Just make sure to invest in companies of various sizes or that operate in different sectors of the economy. For example, if you own tech stocks like Apple or Microsoft, you should balance out your portfolio by buying shares of companies in the healthcare, financial services or consumer-focused sectors, along with funds that track an index made up of companies with small-market values.

Find the Right Mix of Stocks and Bonds for You

How various stock and bond mixes performed, 1926-2021

Source: Vanguard

International Stocks

When the economy enters a recession, U.S. stocks can fall across the board in what’s known as a bear market. Fortunately, while the U.S. is ailing, economies (and stock markets) elsewhere may be thriving. You can turn this to your advantage by investing in international stocks. 

And this type of strategy would have paid off in 2022, for example, when the S&P 500 fell more than 18% stocks in Argentina, Brazil and Chile rose by double digits and Turkey’s stock market surged more than 105%.

Most financial advisors recommend that roughly one-third of your stock market holdings should be international stocks (albeit with far smaller amounts in developing economies, like the ones mentioned above.) 

If you are worried about the prospect of researching foreign companies, don’t be. There are plenty of index funds and other mutual funds that target international stocks, whether you are looking for a single fund that will give you a smattering of stocks from around the world, one that focuses on just developed markets, or even individual countries.

Bonds are the classic tool for balancing out risks in the stock market. While bonds offer lower returns than stocks, they’re less volatile—which provides stability to your portfolio when the stock market is in turmoil. Bonds are also attractive for another reason: They pay regular income. 

Adding bonds will likely lower your long-term returns—but history shows that comes with a benefit. As the Vanguard data above show, none of the portfolios that included bonds matched the all-stock portfolio’s 12% long-term return. But investing in bonds helped these portfolios to dodge many down years, and that was especially true for portfolios that were majority bonds. The worst year ever faced by 60% bond, 40% stock portfolio was a decline of around 18%, compared with a decline of more than 40% for a portfolio that included just stocks.

There are a variety of ways to diversify your portfolio when investing in bonds . As with stocks, you may find it easier to buy bond funds instead of individual bonds. U.S. Treasury bonds are a popular choice for many investors, and you can include a mix of short-term bonds that mature within two years or long-term bonds that mature in 10 or more years. If you invest in corporate bonds, you can include a mix of investment-grade and high-yield bonds.

You might not think of cash as an investment, but it’s another valuable way to diversify your portfolio. Money in short-term investments, like a money-market account or a high-yield savings account , is easy to withdraw if you need some cash quickly. 

Having some cash on-hand can be especially helpful for riding out the most turbulent times in markets. When stock prices are falling, you may be less tempted to sell at a bad time—and that cash could even allow you to jump in and invest when prices are down.

Gold is a popular way to hedge against risk in other assets, and there are several ways to invest in gold —including buying exchange-traded funds (ETFs) , gold mining stocks or owning the metal itself. 

Gold often retains—or even increases—in value when other asset prices fall, making it “a pretty reliable safe haven,” Arnott says. That’s why you may want to invest a small percentage of your portfolio—say, 5%—in gold, she adds.

Other Assets

Investing in other types of assets can improve your portfolio’s performance and reduce risk still further. Just be careful, many of these assets—like agricultural commodities , currencies and cryptocurrencies —are exotic and volatile.

Horstmeyer advises these investments shouldn’t exceed 5% to 10% of your portfolio.

Got a money question? Let Buy Side find the answer. Email [email protected].

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  • Main content

Illinois is making fuzzy dice legal again

  • On Monday, hundreds of new laws are set to take effect. 
  • One of them includes an Illinois law that will make rearview mirror decor legal. 
  • The minimum wage will also increase in several states.

Insider Today

Fuzzy dice will finally be free to dangle in Illinois.

Starting Monday, police in the state will no longer be allowed to pull over motorists solely because they have something hanging from their windshield's rearview mirror. That means air fresheners, parking placards, and, yes, even those dice are fair game to hang.

The revised Illinois windshield rule is one of hundreds of new laws taking effect with the new year in states across the US. While some may seem a bit pedestrian, others have practical impacts or touch on controversial issues, such as restrictions on weapons and medical treatments for transgender people.

Though the original Illinois windshield law was meant to improve roadway safety, it came to be seen by some as an excuse for pulling over drivers. The new law still prohibits objects that obstruct a driver's view but forbids law enforcement officers from conducting stops or searches solely because of suspected violations.

"With this new law, we are sending a powerful message that the state does not tolerate racial profiling or other forms of discrimination," said Democratic state Sen. Christopher Belt, one of the bill's sponsors.

Another new Illinois law seeks to stifle a more modern form of distracted driving by prohibiting people from participating in video conferences or scanning social media while behind the wheel.

Guns will be regulated after a record year of shootings

Several states have new laws regulating guns and online activity.

A Minnesota law will allow authorities to ask courts for " extreme risk protection orders " to temporarily take guns from people deemed to be an imminent threat to others or themselves.

Minnesota will be at least the 20th state with such a red-flag law.

Colorado will become one of a dozen states banning so-called ghost guns . The new law prohibits firearms assembled at home or 3D-printed without serial numbers, practices that have allowed owners to evade background checks.

The US Supreme Court declined to block an Illinois law from taking effect Monday that bans high-powered semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. But a federal judge recently blocked a California law that would have prohibited carrying concealed guns in many public places.

Several state laws delve into acceptable online activities. A new Connecticut law requires online dating operators to adopt policies for handling harassment reports by or between users.

A North Carolina law will require pornographic website operators to confirm viewers are at least 18 years old by using a commercially available database. The law lets parents sue companies if their children were allowed to access the pornography.

Another new Illinois law will allow lawsuits from victims of deepfake pornography , in which videos or images are manipulated without their consent.

Conservatives are clamping down on LGBTQ+ rights

Over the past few years, there has been a major push by conservatives to restrict access to gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors. Bans are on the books in 22 states, including some where judges have paused enforcement as they consider challenges to the policies.

New bans on access for minors to puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery, which is rare, are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 in Idaho , Louisiana, and West Virginia. The West Virginia law contains an exception: Teens could still access treatment with parental consent and a diagnosis of severe gender dysphoria from two doctors.

While many Republican-led legislatures have imposed restrictions, many Democrat-dominated states have responded with transgender protections. A law taking effect Monday in Hawaii requires new marriage certificates to be issued to people who request to change how their sex is listed. The state also is replacing gender-specific terms in state law; "mother" is being replaced with "birthing parent" and "father" with "non-birthing parent."

In Colorado, new buildings wholly or partly owned by government entities will be required to have on every floor where there are public restrooms at least one that does not specify the gender of the users.

The conservative push on LGBTQ+ policies also has come with efforts to keep certain books out of school or public libraries. An Indiana law taking effect makes it easier for parents and others to challenge books in school libraries. By contrast, a new Illinois law would block state funding for public libraries that ban or restrict books.

Minimum wage is on the rise, again

The new year brings various laws on taxes and wages — perennial issues for state governments.

More than 20 states will raise minimum wages for workers, further widening the gap between state requirements and the federal minimum, which has been static at $7.25 an hour since July 2009. In several states, the new minimum wage will more than double that rate.

Maryland's minimum wage will be set at $15 an hour. Most employees will earn $15.13 an hour in New Jersey. In Connecticut, $15.69 per hour. In New York City, $16 an hour, though it will be $15 in most of the rest of the state. California's statewide minimum wage also will rise to $16 per hour. And in Washington, the minimum rate will be $16.28.

Residents in some states will gain money by paying less taxes, continuing a three-year trend in which nearly every state has reduced, rebated, or suspended some broad-based tax.

In Kansas, the sales tax on groceries will drop from 4% to 2% in its next step toward eventual elimination, producing a savings of $208 annually for a family spending an average of $200 weekly on groceries.

About 1 million tax filers are expected to benefit from Connecticut's first income tax rate reduction since the mid-1990s. Lower-income workers and retirees also stand to benefit from expanded tax breaks.

Missouri also will reduce its income tax rate while expanding tax exemptions for Social Security benefits and military training pay. Businesses will be able to claim tax credits for hiring interns or apprentices.

Alabama will exempt overtime pay from the state's income tax, though that lasts only until June 2025 unless renewed by lawmakers.

Past state law introductions

In 2023, hundreds of laws took effect for the first time across states, many of which tackled important topics like minimum wage increases and the legalization of marijuana.

Twenty-seven states increased their minimum wage floors last year. California and Washington increased the minimum wage above $15, making them the highest minimum wage states in the country in 2023.

Maryland and Missouri legalized marijuana , while Colorado passed a law decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms .

State laws are fairly standard, but obscure and strange ones can find their way into the books. For example, in Kentucky, public officials must make an oath that they've never fought a duel with deadly weapons, while fortune telling is illegal in Maryland. Read more about the weirdest laws in each state here .

what is the meaning of the international assignment

Watch: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade: What does it mean for every US state?

what is the meaning of the international assignment

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A Houthi military helicopter flies over the a cargo ship in the Red Sea.

Red Sea crisis explained: what is happening and what does it mean for global trade?

Attacks from the Houthis on shipping vessels have increased in response to the war in Gaza, with BP halting all shipments of oil and gas through the region

Houthi rebels in Yemen have significantly stepped up attacks on commercial shipping vessels travelling through the lower Red Sea since mid-November in response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

On some occasions, Houthis have boarded or sought to board merchant tankers; on others, they have targeted cargo ships with drones and missiles. Damage has been minimal in most cases, but in mid-November, one tanker, the Galaxy Leader, was successfully hijacked.

Threats have escalated further in the past week, to the point where Maersk, MSC and other shipping groups have halted or rerouted traffic, while the US has announced a maritime coalition to defend shipping against attacks.

So far nobody has been killed, but the situation remains tense.

Why is the southern Red Sea so significant?

The Red Sea, one of the world’s most densely packed shipping channels, lies south of the Suez canal, the most significant waterway connecting Europe to Asia and east Africa.

At its southern end is a narrow strait of water – about 20 miles wide – between Djibouti and Yemen: the Bab el-Mandeb strait, the area that the Houthi rebels in Yemen have been targeting.

About 12% of global trade passes through the Red Sea, including 30% of global container traffic. Billions of dollars of traded goods and supplies pass through the Red Sea every year, meaning that delays there can affect petrol prices, the availability of electronics and other aspects of global trade.

Who are the Houthis and why are they attacking now?

The Houthis are a Yemeni rebel group who control the west of the country, including its Red Sea coast. They are aligned with and supplied by Iran, but are politically independent. While other Muslim countries and groups have chosen not to try to help Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis declared war on Israel at the end of October.

Initially the Houthis launched long-range ballistic missiles at Israel, but these were ineffective and some were intercepted by the US and the Saudis. From mid-November, however, the group switched tactics to focus on attacking commercial shipping, starting with the seizure of the Galaxy Leader, which was captured in a dramatic video filmed from body-worn cameras.

Despite the Houthis initially saying that only ships travelling to Israel would be targeted, the threat to trade has grown as vessels flagged to other countries with no connection to Israel have been attacked .

How have the US and other western nations responded?

As the situation escalated over the past month, the US has repelled attempts to board other cargo ships, while US, French and British warships have shot down Houthi drones and missiles.

On Monday, the US announced it had assembled a coalition of countries who had agreed to carry out patrols in the southern Red Sea to try to safeguard vessels against attacks. The coalition, called Operation Prosperity Guardian (OPG), includes the UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, but the leading regional Arab powers – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – are absent.

Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi leadership, has told Al Jazeera that his group will confront any coalition formed by the US. The direct military threat is limited, but there are concerns the situation could escalate if a successful Houthi strike results in fatalities.

Some analysts believe the Houthis hope to embroil the US in a direct confrontation. Escalation could also imperil peace talks between the rebel group and the Saudis. The two have fought a bloody war since 2015, in which Riyadh has repeatedly been accused of killing civilians with indiscriminate airstrikes.

How will the disruption affect shipping?

Prominent shipping companies including Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, and MSC have decided not to use the Red Sea over the past week. According tothe Atlantic Council, a thinktank, seven out of the 10 biggest shipping companies by market share have suspended operations in the Red Sea.

Some ships are being diverted around the Cape of Good Hope, on the southern tip of Africa, increasing their journey time by up to two weeks. On Monday, BP halted all shipments of oil and gas through the Red Sea.

Insurance risk premiums for sailing through high-risk areas are also rising. This risk premium paid by shipping companies was just 0.07% of the value of a ship at the start of December, but has risen to about 0.5% to 0.7% in recent days.

Despite the formation of the US-led OPG, it is not clear when commercial shipping groups will feel confident enough to allow their vessels to pass through the Bab el-Mandeb strait again.

Flames of missile launch seen from deck of warship at night.

How will consumers be affected?

Oil and fossil gas prices rose on the news that BP was pausing shipments through the Red Sea. Analysts say that if the attacks on vessels continue and more oil companies halt shipments through the Red Sea, energy costs are likely to rise further.

Meanwhile, shipping companies have a binary choice: face the risk of travelling through the Red Sea and the increased insurance costs that brings – or divert their vessels. Both carry the risk of higher costs, though diverting ships around Africa also brings the risk of delays.

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Israel’s Supreme Court overturns a key component of Netanyahu’s polarizing judicial overhaul

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Dec . 24, 2023. Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, struck down a key component of Netanyahu’s contentious judicial overhaul, a decision that threatens to reopen the fissures in Israeli society that preceded the country’s ongoing war against Hamas.(AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defence, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Dec . 24, 2023. Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, struck down a key component of Netanyahu’s contentious judicial overhaul, a decision that threatens to reopen the fissures in Israeli society that preceded the country’s ongoing war against Hamas.(AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Supreme Court struck down a key component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious judicial overhaul Monday, delivering a landmark decision that could reopen the fissures in Israeli society that preceded the country’s ongoing war against Hamas.

The planned overhaul sparked months of mass protests, threatened to trigger a constitutional crisis between the judicial and legislative branches of government, and rattled the cohesion of Israel’s powerful military .

Those divisions were largely put aside after Hamas militants carried out a bloody cross-border attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, triggering a war that has raged in Gaza for nearly three months. But Monday’s court decision could reignite those tensions even while the country remains at war .

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally and the architect of the overhaul, lambasted the court’s decision, saying it demonstrated “the opposite of the spirit of unity required these days for the success of our soldiers on the front.”

A demonstrator waves a colored Israeli flag during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, July 24, 2023. The demonstration came hours before parliament was set to vote on a key part of the plan. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The ruling “will not discourage us,” Levin said without indicating whether the government would try to revive his plan in the short term. “As the campaigns are continuing on different fronts, we will continue to act with restraint and responsibility,” he said.

In Monday’s decision, the court narrowly voted to overturn a law passed in July that prevents judges from striking down government decisions they deem “unreasonable.” Opponents had argued that Netanyahu’s efforts to remove the standard of reasonability opens the door to corruption and improper appointments of unqualified cronies to important positions.

The law was the first in a planned overhaul of the Israeli justice system. The overhaul was put on hold after Hamas militants carried out their Oct. 7 attack, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping 240 others. Israel immediately declared war, and is pressing forward with an offensive that Palestinian health officials say has killed nearly 22,000 people in Gaza.

In an 8-7 decision, the Supreme Court justices struck down the law because of the “severe and unprecedented harm to the core character of the State of Israel as a democratic country.”

The justices also ruled 12-3 that they had the authority to overturn so-called “Basic Laws,” major pieces of legislation that serve as a sort of constitution for Israel.

It was a significant blow to Netanyahu and his hard-line allies, who claimed the national legislature, not the high court , should have the final word over the legality of legislation and other key decisions. The justices said the Knesset, or parliament, does not have “omnipotent” power.

Netanyahu’s government could decide to ignore Monday’s ruling, setting the stage for a constitutional showdown over which branch of government has ultimate authority.

The court issued its decision because its outgoing president, Esther Hayut, is retiring, and Monday was her last day on the job.

Netanyahu and his allies announced their sweeping plan to reshape the judiciary shortly after taking office a year ago. It calls for curbing the power of the judges , including by limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to review parliamentary decisions and changing the way judges are appointed.

Supporters said the changes aim to strengthen democracy by circumscribing the authority of unelected judges and turning over more powers to elected officials. But opponents see the overhaul as a power grab by Netanyahu , who is on trial for corruption charges, and an assault on a key watchdog.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a good-government group that opposed the legislation, called the Supreme Court’s ruling “a tremendous public victory for those who seek democracy.”

“Only an unreasonable government, one that acts unreasonably, that makes unreasonable moves, abolishes the reasonablility standard,” the group’s chairman, Eliad Shraga, said.

Before the Israel-Hamas war, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in weekly protests against the government. Among the demonstrators were military reservists, including fighter pilots and members of other elite units, who said they would stop reporting for duty if the overhaul was passed. Reservists make up the backbone of the Israeli military.

While the reservists quickly returned to duty after the Oct. 7 attacks in a show of unity, it remains unclear what would happen if the overhaul efforts were revived. A resumption of the protests could undermine national unity and affect the military’s readiness if soldiers refused to report for duty.

Under the Israeli system, the prime minister governs through a majority coalition in parliament — in effect, giving him control over the executive and legislative branches of government.

As a result, the Supreme Court plays a critical oversight role. Critics say that by seeking to weaken the judiciary, Netanyahu and his allies are trying to erode the country’s checks and balances and consolidate power over the third, independent branch of government.

Netanyahu’s allies include an array of ultranationalist and religious parties with a list of grievances against the court.

His allies have called for increased West Bank settlement construction, annexation of the occupied territory, perpetuating military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men, and limiting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and Palestinians.

The U.S. had previously urged Netanyahu to put the plans on hold and seek a broad consensus across the political spectrum.

What is Boxing Day? Learn more about the centuries-old tradition

what is the meaning of the international assignment

The holiday season is packed with numerous traditions and occasions. Amidst the holiday cheer, those in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries will be celebrating Boxing Day.

While the holiday may sound like it's centered around a sport, it has nothing to do with the ring.

Boxing Day, celebrated every year on December 26, the day after Christmas, is a gift-giving holiday that originated in Britain during the Victorian era, according to Britannica.

Boxing Day's origins

During the reign of Queen Victoria, servants, tradespeople, and the poor typically were given presents. The servants worked on Christmas Day and would have the next day off to go visit their own families. So, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac , the upper class would take leftover food, goods, or money and put them in boxes to give out to the poor.

One of the earliest records of this tradition was found in a 1663 journal entry from English Parliamentarian Samuel Pepys. Pepys entry mentioned that he sent a messenger to deliver a box with gifts and money to his shoemaker.

Britannica reported that while it's not certain how the name "Boxing Day" came about, it may have come from the practice of giving these boxes as gifts or it could have been derived from the opening of alms boxes. These boxing were put in churches to get people to donate to the poor.

The day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day, after the first Christian martyr who was known for helping the poor, Almanac reported.

The evolution of Boxing Day

While the holiday had its roots in giving back to the poor, like many modern celebrations, it's shifted and become more associated with shopping and sports, according to Britannica.

The day is a day off in Britain and Canada. While boxes aren't typically given to the poor anymore, it's not unusual for service employees to get bonuses around this time of year, Britannica reported. The bonuses however typically come before Christmas.

Woman's Day reported that the day is a chance for people to spend time with family and friends, especially those who they may not have seen on Christmas.

It's typical for families to invite others over to enjoy a casual lunch made from Christmas Day leftovers.

The day after Christmas also means some are returning or exchanging some of their presents and searching for good shopping deals.

Just like how football has become a part of celebrating Thanksgiving in many American household, Boxing Day has its own sports traditions. Almanac reported that in recent years the sports of choice have been watching horse races and football matches between local rivals. 

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  1. International assignment

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