The challenge of the relocating partner has been a growing topic in international mobility in recent years. The old cliché of the ‘trailing spouse’ is no longer applicable because of several drivers, such as the reduction of the financial attractiveness of mobility packages linked to costs savings initiatives, the ensuing increased percentage of highly educated and professionally active partners contributing to the family income, and the growing percentage of Gen Y, aka ‘millennial’, employees for whom family happiness during international assignments is paramount.
Indeed, recent studies have shown that the Number 1 reason for failed relocation assignment according to 71% of Corporates is an unhappy, unintegrated spouse in the host location.
An unhappy partner is not only the most common reason for a failed relocation assignment, it has also become the main concern of future mobile employees to accept an assignment across borders. Thanks to the increased transparency of social media and the availability of feedback from employees who have returned from assignments, future expats are more informed today than ever. The question is not different when considering working or non-working partners. Whatever the partner chooses to go abroad, an effective integration and a sense of being actively part of the assignment is absolutely crucial to the success of modern international assignments.
“When a spouse or partner gives up his or her job to follow an employee to a new location, we truly believe that a company should support and assist that employees’ partner to find employment in the new location. This support will ensure the overall well-being of the couple and the employee as a whole. Happy family, happy employee, is what we believe in,” says relocation specialist Ayelet Mamo Shay, author of the popular novel Relocation Darling Relocation! which was launched in Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a small and very often unfamiliar place for many prospective employees, making the entire relocation proposition a relatively ‘hard sell’. “Many people may know what to expect when relocating to places like Paris, New York, or Berlin, but Gibraltar is a complete enigma for them. In Gibraltar, we often lack the critical mass of people necessary to operate various associations, clubs, courses and other social groups of like-minded people, which means the socialising and networking opportunities available to relocating spouses is fairly limited, especially if English is not their first language,” says Ayelet.
To assist relocating spouses, Benefit Business Solutions’ Relocation Services, has been offering Spouse/Partner Relocation Assistance Package which includes a Relocation Hotline open to employees and their relocating family members, along with spouse and family members’ consultation regarding the relocation decision-making even before moving to Gibraltar and understanding the spouse’s needs. “We help spouses find new employment and assist employers with obtaining work permits. Alternatively, we can help relocating spouses and other family members in getting access to further education or voluntary programmes where immigration rules prohibit the employment of spouses or in cases when spouses have no desire to work,” adds Ayelet.
“Time and again, our clients have seen the return on investment derived from our robust partner support offering – from the initial perception of and buy-in to the assignment offer, to the level of engagement of the family in the assignment location. Consideration of the full family dynamic is an imperative in the modern international assignment equation,” says Eran Shay.
Gibraltar is a complete enigma for them.
Indeed, surveys have found that when asked about the Return on Investment (ROI) of investing in partner support benefits, 69% and 62% of Employers confirmed that their partner support program has had a positive impact on family acclimation and assignment acceptance respectively.
One noticeable change in the way international employers approach partner support is revealed through the way they define ‘partners’, which has evolved over time. While only a few years ago, most employers only recognised legal spouses as beneficiaries of any support offered, employers today, be it in Gibraltar or in many other countries, approach the notion of the term ‘partner’ in a much broader manner which reflects the sociological evolution of our societies: 78% of employers now recognise the partner in the broadest terms by including legally married, as well as unmarried partners of both opposite and same gender.
The future looks bright for partner support, with most employers well-aware of the crucial role played by accompanying partners, and many even plan to increase their current relocating partner benefits. Going forward, most corporates will aim at improving communication with the partners, and improving visibility of partner support within their mobile workforce, as part of aspirations of being an ‘employer of choice’.