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Preparing for and managing long-term international assignments

Authors: Matthew Howse, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Celia Kendrick


  • There are many situations in which international assignments are a convenient tool for organisations to achieve international business objectives. (See The reasons why organisations use international assignments)
  • Employers often invest a lot of time and money in making international assignments a success, so it is important for them to follow good practice when preparing for and managing an assignment. A successful assignment can have many benefits for the organisation and the assignee. (See The importance of observing good practice)
  • Some employers identify potential assignees early on in their career, so that they can prepare them for the challenges of an international assignment. Selecting an employee for an international assignment involves considering the employee's strengths and weaknesses. The employer should not make assumptions based on protected characteristics. (See Selecting the assignee)
  • A flexible international assignment arrangement could enable an employee with caring responsibilities to undertake an assignment. (See Flexibility)
  • Ongoing communication between the employer and the employee before, during and after an international assignment is essential to managing the employee's expectations and ensuring that they feel supported throughout the assignment. (See Communication)
  • During an international assignment, the employer should continue to assess the employee's performance, and review the employee's salary and allowances. It is also important for the assignee to continue to have career development opportunities. (See Performance, career development and salary reviews)
  • Where an international assignee's performance or conduct falls below acceptable standards, it is important for the employer to deal with the issue quickly. (See Discipline)
  • Helping an international assignee make arrangements for their home-country property during the assignment, and find suitable accommodation in the host country, can be key to the assignee's peace of mind and happiness. (See Accommodation)
  • Support from the employer to prepare an assignee for the cultural and practical changes that lie ahead can play a big part in helping them to feel part of the local community in the host country. (See Integration into the new community)
  • Central to the success of many international assignments is the happiness of the assignee's accompanying partner, so the organisation should consider how it can help them to feel settled in the host country. (See Support for the assignee's partner)
  • Many organisations help international assignees who have children by giving them assistance with finding appropriate schools and funding fee-paying schooling. (See Support for assignees with children)
  • An organisation could provide support to other members of the assignee's family where the assignment will have a significant impact on them. (See Support for other family members)
  • The employer should consider what procedures to put in place to help the assignee in an emergency situation. (See Emergencies)
  • Organisations can assist international assignees with the many other practical arrangements of relocating abroad, such as obtaining immigration permission. (See Other practical and financial support)
  • Organisations should communicate regularly with assignees before and during the assignment about their career development beyond the assignment. (See The assignee's return to the home country)
  • Organisations can improve their international assignments programme by learning from previous assignments. (See Learning from previous assignments)


This guide explores the arrangements that employers can put in place to ensure the success of their international assignments programme. It covers the situation in which an employee of the "home organisation" (the employee's employer in their home country) is seconded to the "host organisation" (the organisation in the destination country in which the employee will be based during the assignment) on a temporary basis with the intention that they will return to work for the home organisation after the assignment is complete. The guidance is relevant to situations in which the employee continues to be employed by the home organisation throughout their assignment. (A different arrangement is where the employee's employment with the home organisation is suspended for the duration of the assignment and they are employed by the host organisation during this period.)

The guidance is applicable to long-term assignments, where the assignment is of a sufficient length to merit the employer's extensive support (generally assignments that last longer than six months).