International job opportunities in the oil and gas industry are generally well-rewarded in terms of financial and practical support. The industry is keen to increase diversity within its expatriate workforce and although Human Resource policies typically do not differentiate by gender, particular benefits can prove especially attractive to women seeking international opportunities. As part of our “females in oil & gas” blog series, here we provide you with some insights into international assignment policies and how you can get the support you need to make your assignment a success.
What is your employer’s international assignment policy?
Every firm will have different policies to support their international assignees. These are usually compiled by Human Resource (HR) or Global Mobility staff and are designed to address various aspects of compensation and benefits for those undertaking expatriation. The package offered is likely to comprise a mix of financial and practical support.
You will find that policy content differs by assignment type. For example, long-term assignments tend to attract the most generous compensation and benefits. In addition to salary, it is possible that your assignment will qualify for allowances such as a mobility or foreign service premium to address mobility and location issues. This may be paid as a one-off sum when you begin the assignment or delivered as a monthly salary ‘uplift’. You might also qualify for a hardship allowance and, depending on the cost of living in your host country, a cost of living allowance. Provision is generally made for host country housing, travel to and from the host country, and medical issues. Temporary accommodation, shipment of personal belongings, local transport, and home leave costs may also be included:
“It is the whole package. Getting accommodation paid for and getting your bills paid is enormously useful as well as that we get a lot of flights included.” (Karen, on a long-term assignment in West Africa).
Short-term, rotational and commuter style assignments usually attract fewer allowances and benefits as the period spent in the host location is shorter. Nonetheless, these assignments can prove very financially attractive, particularly if they are based in remote and challenging locations.
What are the most valuable key policy components to you?
While the financial aspects can be attractive, you also need to check that you are comfortable with the other support provided. Research has shown that women place considerable emphasis on particular policy elements such as housing quality, so make sure when viewing housing abroad, that you will feel happy living there.
This issue is recognised by HR professionals as being particularly important to female expatriates, so it is worth expressing your concerns and allowing your employer the opportunity to make adjustments:
“We had a senior reservoir engineer in Trinidad … her therapy was cooking, and they gave her initially a little apartment with a tiny kitchen so she was so unhappy. I intervened on her behalf and moved her to a more suitable property”. (HR professional, oil and gas firm)
Is there adequate support for your family?
If you’re undertaking an accompanied assignment, it’ll have implications for your partner and family and if support for them isn’t provided, it could lead to the failure of the assignment. Some employers will assist with securing work visas, provide career counselling and/or give support such as language, cultural and job-search skills training to help your partner gain local employment, so it’s important to ask about this before accepting an assignment.
Your employer may also make provision for assistance with finding appropriate schools for accompanying children and help with - or cover - the school fees. If this is the case, research into the selected schools is beneficial to make sure the school will be appropriate for your child’s needs:
“If the family is happy, then you are happy at work. It is the classic. It is worth putting the time and effort in getting … your children happy in school. Then everything is fine.” (Izzy on a long-term assignment in the Caribbean).
Also ensure you check out any additional costs (uniforms, books, travel) and what your firm will pay. Be prepared to pay for school expenses that fall outside prescribed company budgets.
Make sure you check out the medical aspects covered by policy and that there are suitable facilities available. If you or your family members have special health needs, ensure you inform your HR contact so that advice can be given to you ahead of you accepting a position abroad, especially in remote and challenging destinations:
“We take it for granted … that we have a very good benefits package, but the medical insurance, the personal accident insurance, the supporting framework is important.” (Zara, on a rotational assignment in Central Asia)
Don’t forget to stay informed and up-to-date!
There are some circumstances in which your package could change. Your HR department should make available the details of the compensation and benefits package that relates to your assignment before you go, so make sure that you keep a copy of this so that you know if any policy elements are due to alter over the course of your period abroad.
If you undertake a long-term assignment and this is extended beyond the original contract end-date, your benefits may be adjusted. Similarly, if you start on a short-term assignment and extend this to a long-term, your package can alter. So double check what will happen to your package if your assignment changes.
Also, organisations review their international assignment policies regularly, often benchmarking them against those offered by other firms in the industry. As firms pursue greater competitiveness, benefits may change or how they are delivered can alter. Because of this, alternative compensation and benefits elements or delivery options may be made available to you. It is important to keep up-to-date to ensure you are able to plan ahead financially and also in respect of the practical aspects required to live and work abroad.
NES & Global Mobility
At NES, we have a team of Global Mobility experts who are able to alleviate the mobility burden for clients and candidates alike. We currently look after 12,000+ contractors across the globe and are well placed to support clients with their mobile workforce needs.
Our Global Mobility team are expatriates themselves so they know how stressful relocating can be. It’s important you seek help and advice from experienced professionals. At NES, we can help candidate’s experience a smooth relocation via our designated assignment support services.
Shortland, S., 2018. What seals the deal? How compensation and benefits affect women’s decisions to accept expatriation in the oil and gas industry. Personnel Review, Vol 47 No 3, pp.765-783. https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/PR-11-2016-0294
Shortland, S. and Perkins, S.J., 2016. Long-term assignment reward (dis) satisfaction outcomes: hearing women’s voices. Journal of Global Mobility, Vol 4 No 2, pp.225-250.