Coronavirus Update: Best Practices and Approaches for Addressing Relocation Impact
UPDATED: Feb. 13, 2020
As the global leader in relocation, Cartus is closely monitoring the ongoing health situation related to COVID-19—aka, the novel coronavirus (formerly known as 2019-nCoV)—which the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday, January 30, 2020. In order to offer actionable insights that companies can use to inform their own response to this situation, we have canvassed our global client and supplier base to learn what actions they are taking or are considering at this time. Those findings—along with best practice recommendations from various Cartus experts—are summarized below. We will share ongoing updates through various channels as applicable. You may also check back here for ongoing updates as we receive them.
Clear and regular communication is crucial to ensuring all parties understand the situation as it stands as well as any required or potential next steps. Best practices include:
- Creating a comprehensive list of employees by country with all relevant contact information.
- Establishing a dedicated communications channel (e.g., internal social media tools such as Yammer, Slack, Wiki) or other process (e.g., monitored email inbox, global shared drive) for employees to share and receive updates.
- Establishing (or, if it already exists, activating) an internal Crisis Committee and/or Pandemic Response Team to traffic information and liaise with Executive Leadership to determine next steps. Key participants may include delivery owner and partners, policy/operations owner, health officer, and representatives from Human Resources, Security, Facilities, and/or Marketing.
- Partnering with an organization like International SOS to share pre-travel alerts and travel recommendations.
- Keeping critical employee-facing vendors updated about your organization's protocols regarding 2019-nCoV to prepare them to answer questions from transferees and assignees.
To date, Cartus clients are taking varying approaches to manage through and support employees during the crisis:
- Temporarily suspending any business travel to, from, or within China through at least Monday, February 10, unless determined to be business critical, in which case, pre-approval is required.
- Instituting a company-wide travel ban to the areas of China affected, communicated to staff via an All Company Yammer Channel and via Global Travel Management booking providers.
- Evaluating requests from assignees who are on home leave to delay their return to China on a case-by-case basis.
- Evaluating opportunities for expats to work from home until a certain period.
- Delaying assignment start dates into the APAC region.
- Closing local offices until at least February 10, 2020.
- Completing cost analyses on home leaves for affected employees to help inform decisions around evacuation policies.
- Providing a one-time allowance to expatriates to assist with needs that may arise or offering danger/hardship premiums to supplement anticipated price increases due to limited supplies.
- Analyzing remote locations to determine if location-specific support for supplies are needed.
- Creating formal protocols for voluntary and involuntary evacuations (specific to companies with expats directly in Wuhan)
- Benefits for evacuation at employee's discretion is based on existing home leave budget
- Benefits for evacuation at client's discretion include COLA, DLA, and other expat benefits as deemed appropriate; airfare (based on travel policy); rental care; additional bag; pet transportation; hardship allowance; etc., depending on the specific scenario
- Suspending all travel to, from, or within the APAC region as a whole.
- Engaging a DSP to transport necessary food and supplies into cities that are already experiencing shortages.
Key Watchout: If considering alternative work locations or evacuation arrangements, it is critical to seek immigration and visa advisory from Cartus or your designated immigration providers.
Contact your Cartus representative for policy guidance.
Impact to Relocation
The following factors are likely to have an impact on overall relocation and travel timelines:
Bans and Restrictions
The following information comes courtesy of Cartus network immigration provider Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP, and other sources:
- Wuhan City, Mainland China departure ban: As of January 23, 2020, departure from Wuhan City, Mainland China has been temporarily banned via airports and railways due to the spread of the coronavirus. This particularly affects foreign nationals in Wuhan City who need to renew their temporary residence permits in order to remain compliant with Mainland Chinese immigration laws during this departure ban.
- Taiwan entry ban: Effective January 27, 2020, the National Immigration Agency in Taiwan is barring Chinese nationals who are residents of or whose household is in Hubei Province, Mainland China, from entering Taiwan, even if they hold a valid Entry Permit for Taiwan.
- Hong Kong entry ban: Effective January 27, 2020, residents from Hubei Province in Mainland China and persons who visited the Hubei Province in the past 14 calendar days cannot enter Hong Kong until further notice. This ban does not affect Hong Kong residents.
- Singapore entry ban: Entry ban for those with Chinese passports (except Singapore permanent residents, long-term pass holders and holders of IPA letter, who are subject to LOA or quarantine upon entry).
- Effective January 31, 2020, rejection of all new work pass applications for Mainland Chinese workers until further notice. Renewal applications for existing work pass holders will not be affected.
- Effective February 8, 2020, work pass holders of all nationalities, their dependents and those with IPAs who were in Mainland China in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Singapore will need to obtain Ministry of Manpower (MOM) approval to enter Singapore prior to arrival.
- General travel warnings: Many countries have issued travel warnings to the Asia-Pacific region since the coronavirus was first detected in late December 2019 in Mainland China. Fragomen is tracking this situation and will report on other relevant travel impacts.
Additional Travel Considerations
- The extension of the Chinese New Year holiday may lead to short staffing at Customs, ports, freight forwarders, and agents for at least several weeks. There are no known direct limitations on household shipments, but new government regulations are expected. (Cartus network freight forwarders are monitoring each individual shipment's transit time and updating Cartus and our customers about any delays.)
- Health authorities in Asia frequently use thermal scanners to detect individuals with fevers or other illnesses. If employees have or develop a fever during travel, they may be selected for additional questioning.
- Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam have activated additional screening at their ports of entry, including airports, seaports or railways (where applicable). It is anticipated that more countries will also strengthen their surveillance and detection capabilities.
- Depending on where they go, evacuated employees may be quarantined for a minimum of two weeks in the destination.
Cartus Destination Services Providers
- For programs where the assignees are arriving from China, our team is working with the assignment consultants and clients (for direct clients) to advise that we will not carry out activity until 14 days after their arrival.
- Every field consultant (FC) and real estate agent (REA) working on home search, orientation, settling in, and school visits should be wearing a surgical mask.
- FCs and REAs must have sanitizers in the car available after each visit.
- FCs and REAs should clean and sanitize their cars daily.
- Programs may be subject to cancellation should the assigned REA or FC fall ill or show symptoms for onset of flu.
- REAs should provide daily updates if landlords and/or landlords' agents are regularly failing to show properties.
- Regular pulse checks with FCs who may not comfortable taking on any assignments for assignees coming from China.
- International schools have cancelled all school visits and are not allowing visitors from China onto their campuses unless the visitor has been in country for at least 14 days without any flu-like symptoms.
- If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should stay home. Do not return to work until all symptoms are gone and you have discussed your situation with your physician or a healthcare professional.
- Avoid contact with ill persons.
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve. Throw used tissues in a trash can.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to prevent spreading germs.
- Consider wearing a face mask when in public places.
- Expats: make sure you are registered with your local embassy or Foreign Ministry/State Department. There are reports of government challenges locating employees in China because they were not registered appropriately.