Don’t let your global HR benefits get lost in translation

June 12, 2018 Jaclyn Michalewicz, GWS Enablement Manager

Congratulations! You’re expanding your U.S.-based team to include its first international hires. How do you make remote employees feel like they are a part of your larger team? Co-working tools such as Dropbox, Asana and Slack make working from anywhere a cinch. But what really makes employees feel valued by their company? Outside of salary, it’s often their benefits package.

Many employers think they should mirror the U.S. benefits scheme. We often hear, “We want our global employees to receive the same benefits as our U.S. team.” Which is a fair sentiment, but let’s take a moment to unpack what this really means. Does your new software developer in France care about the excellent health insurance plans you offer to the U.S. team? Should you offer that stellar sales manager candidate in Brazil a company vehicle?

Health coverage

Employer-paid health insurance with a range of coverage options is a valuable perk for a U.S. employee. But for your new team member in France, it’s not as enticing. The French government not only provides a robust public health care scheme, but also requires employers to provide supplemental coverage to fill the few gaps not covered under the public scheme. The private, supplemental schemes are typically a fraction of the cost of a U.S. equivalent and are used for ancillary coverage such as non-prescription medication and specialist practices.

The fully paid health coverage worth thousands of dollars annually to your U.S. employees has far less value to your new French employee. What your new French employee will want is assurance that their new foreign employer is complying with the statutory supplemental health plan and pension contributions, not to mention the 35-hour-per-week working limit.

Holidays & other perks

Understanding the differences in statutory and supplemental benefit schemes across international borders is key to creating benefits packages for your new international hires, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. It’s also important to factor in cultural or social implications of the benefits you offer.

For example, your American sales managers may love having a company car to drive to and from meetings. But in Brazil, a company vehicle is often seen as a burden to employees. In comparison, a more common and desired benefit there might be meal allowances or food vouchers. A new hire in Brazil may feel slighted if this benefit forgone in favor of U.S.-centered benefits.
Does your organization offer a 401(k) match? If you offer a 4% match in the U.S., would you need to provide this to your employees abroad? In France, for example, you are required to contribute to a private pension fund in addition to the statutory government pension contributions.

Did you know that workers in Brazil are entitled to a minimum of 30 days of paid vacation annually in addition to a “holiday pay”—which is an additional 33% of their average earnings paid at the start of their vacation? This could mean big payouts to a Brazil employee taking full advantage of the unlimited vacation policy that your U.S. employees enjoy.

Applying benefits abroad

Replicating U.S. benefits packages for international employees can be a daunting—and it’s often unnecessary. In international hiring, it is all about balance. How can you take relevant components of your benefits scheme and apply them to France while also being aware of what is customary locally? Have you ensured that everything you’re offering in Brazil is legal?

Your goal is to make your workers feel valued. You can do that by tailoring a benefits plan to the individual situation and taking into account local requirements and customs. Seeking local expertise with experience working alongside U.S. HR teams is always highly recommended when taking on those first international hires.


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