Protecting employees, ensuring business continuity and managing impact on relocation
As the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) evolves globally, and we monitor and adapt to this fluid situation, we want to continue to keep you informed.
At Crown, we’re doing everything we can to prioritize the health, safety and peace of mind of all Crown staff and our clients’ employees, while honoring our commitments to clients and customers.
These updates continue to leverage information gathered from a variety of sources: our global corporate clients, network of partners, local teams on the ground and experts around the world.
We encourage you to continue communicating questions and sharing experiences/best practices with your Crown team and industry peers to better ensure that concerns are addressed. We will continue to provide updates along the way.
Basic advice remains consistent: avoid panic and use common sense steps as you would when trying to avoid a common cold. The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines the following measures:
- Stay home if you are unwell; avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, and if that isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain social distancing between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Practice respiratory hygiene: cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze; throw the tissue away immediately.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay informed and follow the advice of healthcare providers and other reliable sources.
A growing number of companies are putting general rules and guidelines around travel, facilities, communication and employee education in place. Close to 60 countries are dealing with outbreaks this week, and South Korea, Italy and Iran have the largest confirmed cases outside China. Travel rules tend to be determined by emerging government restrictions.
- Increasing travel restrictions to impacted locations or even limiting non-essential travel. Companies have set up warnings on their designated travel booking sites; when business travel is deemed necessary, approvals from senior leaders is required.
- Keeping offices and facilities clean and hygienic, and making necessary working arrangements such as flexible hours and/or working from home for roles that can.
- Many of our clients have changed face-to-face for virtual meetings to limit the spread of the virus.
- Office visitors may be asked to declare any recent travel or test their temperature in order to gain entry to a building.
- Educating employees to follow the guidelines of local health authorities to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Formalizing coordination between Global Security and Safety and Risk Management teams with representatives from HR, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Executive Leadership to establish a response team and ensure business continuity, employee safety and clarity in any actions being taken and communicated.
Our clients are sharing the steps that they are taking to support relocating employees and global mobility stakeholders:
- Communicating with impacted populations remains critical to managing the uncertainty and anxiety that can often accompany this type of situation; communication should be provided on a regular basis and easy to understand; determining the best channel for the communication (i.e., Yammer, Slack, Teams, Outlook, WeChat, etc.) will help make information streamlined and predictable.
- Encouraging all relocating employees and third-country nationals to register at their local home country embassies/foreign offices, etc. to ensure they are accounted for, added to any communications lists, and easily located if needed.
- Creating accurate lists of all employees by country and relevant contact details; for expat populations, a full list of employees and dependents in impacted locations will facilitate evacuations should the need arise.
- Indefinite postponement of assignments into impacted locations for employees with upcoming start dates.
- 14-day quarantine for all employees after leaving impacted locations – employees are being asked to work from home and are not allowed in offices/meetings with colleagues/clients upon repatriation.
- Evaluating options for expat populations on a case-by-case basis, including providing an option to return to the home location for a period of time (consult with your immigration and tax providers for any potential impact on decisions).
- Partnering with external organizations like International SOS (ISOS) to share regular updates and recommendations with your mobile populations.
- Reassessing and communicating to HR, Global Mobility teams and partners your company’s protocols for emergency, voluntary and involuntary evacuations.
- There is no single approach that we are seeing companies take to evacuate expats in impacted locations. This decision is often a personal one for the employee and their families; but companies do need to decide what kind of support they will provide the employee during a temporary evacuation/extended home leave.
- Some companies are using standard repatriation provisions for company-driven repatriations, and paying for flight change fees and standard home leave for employees not able to return to an impacted location due to school closures, travel restrictions or personal preference.
- Some companies have decided to support voluntary evacuations for the dependent families of expat employees; but not the employee in cases where the company’s local offices remain open. This decision is based on a desire to treat expats and local employees the same.
- For expats requesting an early termination of assignment or to temporarily return to their home country/an alternative location, it is important to account for visa, passport, tax implications and home country travel restrictions as part of the decision-making process.
- Following any employee and/or dependent family member evacuations and quarantines, evaluating their needs and questions (including local third-country nationals who may not be on the Global Mobility team’s active relocating employee list) to make sure they know what support the company is/is not providing; some companies report gaps in health insurance and questions related to financial responsibilities for employees under 14-day quarantine in certain locations.
More information available from Crown
- Contact a member of Crown’s Consulting Services team or your local Crown representative for policy questions.
- Contact a member of Crown’s Immigration team for immigration questions.
Our primary concern will always be the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and business partners. Basic personal hygiene measures are being reinforced among our employees and external service providers to minimize potential influenza transmission.
Crown has resources in place to conduct “business as usual” with preventative measures as noted in the bullets below. Similar to most of our clients, our business activities require compliance with government enforced safety measures, restrictions and requirements. Due to some organizational directives from our corporate clients, we are seeing a decrease in the need for services based on travel restrictions and other varying factors.
- Restricting workplace entry for anyone with influenza symptoms.
- Practicing good personal hygiene and workplace cleaning habits.
- Increasing flexible work options that allow for social distancing (e.g. enabling working from home options, avoiding face-to-face contact). We have invested significantly in technology that allows us to chat, use video conferencing and other collaborative tools to maintain a highly-personalized service.
- Managing any of our team members if they become ill at work.
- Managing and monitoring our team members who travel overseas. Avoiding any unnecessary travel and cancelling or postponing non-essential meetings.
For the delivery of moving and destination services whereby a Crown/Service Partner employee will be in direct contact with our customers, we have initiated the following health screening protocols globally:
- Crown Mobility Advisors will use Crown’s Health and Travel Checklist to screen all customers and their accompanying family members; this simple interview process will verify if any higher risk countries/regions (Centers for Disease and Control Level 3 Warning countries) have been visited in the past 14 days.
- Service delivery will move forward as normal if a Level 3 Warning country/region has not been visited by customers and family members during the 14-day period.
- If a Level 3 Warning country has been visited, the destination country government’s quarantine requirements must be observed and completed before service delivery can proceed. For example, if the destination country has a 14-day quarantine period, then services must be delayed until after the quarantine period and the customer shows no signs of COVID-19.
- A good reference library of current COVID-19 government quarantine requirements for each country is https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
- If the destination country has no government quarantine requirements, Crown will implement a 14-day service delay for the protection of its staff.
- This protocol is based solely on the countries visited during the 14-day period and has no basis on customer or family nationality.
Where we have the capability to deliver, we are offering virtual solutions to customers, such as virtual consultations for moving services, and language or cultural training.
Please note that the precautions that many locations and service partners/providers are implementing in order to minimize the spread of the virus may cause increased timelines and costs. We’ll continue to do our best to keep you informed of individual situations that may be impacted and recommend that you continue to help set expectations with your internal business partners on the impact to employee relocation.
For example, there are early signs of an unprecedented equipment shortage in North America and Europe in April (disrupting full container load exports). Driven by the fact that on average over 50 percent of the world’s ocean containers are in China, this impending shortage is a direct result of:
- The extended shutdown of factories after the Lunar New Year (affected by Coronavirus)
- A slow ramp up of production from China (affected by Coronavirus)
- An already low import market in the U.S. (affected by tariffs)
We are now seeing warnings regarding possible price increases and air freight/ocean shipment unavailability/delays.
If you’d like further advice on anything contained in this update, please contact your nearest expert.