Although a global assignment brings a sense of excitement and wonder, one of the first questions that expatriates and their family members often have — even before they depart — is, “when can we come back home to visit?”
For that reason, and to keep assignees happy and productive in their new roles by helping them maintain ties to their home locations, most companies allow for some type of home leave in their policies.
Home leave policies should include reimbursement of appropriate travel expenses designed to give the assignee and accompanying family the opportunity to renew ties with family, friends and work colleagues in the home country and to stay informed of the economic, political, cultural and social trends there. Companies should strongly encourage the assignee and family to take home leave annually. In addition, to facilitate repatriation, companies should encourage the assignee to include a visit with their business unit when they schedule home leave.
In most policies, assignees and their families are eligible for one home leave trip per year. Eligibility typically begins after 6 months on assignment and continues annually thereafter, with days spent on home leave charged against vacation entitlement. Ideally, the last home leave trip should be scheduled approximately 6-9 months (but not less than three months) prior to repatriation.
One interesting question that sometimes arises is what to do if the assignee wants to use his or her home leave to go somewhere other than the home location. In a random sampling of our clients, companies remain split between allowing assignees to go wherever they want and requiring them to visit their home country.
Our portfolio of clients and recent industry survey data supports that financial services companies are more likely to require assignees to visit their home country and reimburse actual costs of home leave expenses than other industries. On the other hand, companies in the energy industry are more likely to allow assignees to go to their location of choice and give a lump sum payment for leave expenses.
Generally, I recommend requiring your assignees to go home, since the purpose of home leave is not only for the assignee to connect with family, but also to meet with key contacts and managers in the home office.
At the conclusion of the assignment, some companies allow the assignee the choice not to return to their home location. In those cases, I recommend that the allowance or reimbursement be the equivalent of round trip airfare to the home location/point of origin.