At some point in your career, chances are that you will be presented with a new opportunity that requires you to relocate for your job. That opportunity could be with your current employer, or as a new hire with a new company. Either way, when that moment arrives, we want you to be armed and ready with important information about the various elements involved, the associated costs, and how to best negotiate your relocation package.
This will help you to consider the offer that is being presented, and truly evaluate how the relocation will impact you professionally, personally, and of course, financially. Relocation can be very expensive, so you will need to know how each move-related expense will be paid, by whom, and how it will all be managed.
Let’s start by taking a look at some of the basics.
What is a relocation package?
A relocation package is the set of benefits that a company provides to an employee to cover relocation expenses. That is not to say that all companies have the same policies around relocation, or that all such expenses will be paid for by the employer. The items that are covered and/or the amount of money allotted can vary greatly from industry-to-industry, from company-to-company, and even from employee-to-employee. It depends on a multitude of factors.
For example, a Fortune 500 company that has a high volume of employee relocation, will usually be able to offer a more generous package than a small company with a significantly smaller footprint and a low demand for employee relocation.
Likewise, an entry-level new hire employee will probably not be eligible for the same relocation package and benefits afforded to a high-level executive who has been with the company for 10+ years. So, a company might have a tiered structure for their relocation packages.
Nonetheless, a relocation package should clearly outline and define everything that will be covered by the company, and any specific items that will be the responsibility of the employee. It should also specify how the employee relocation expenses will be paid and/or reimbursed, and the process that this will follow and how it will be managed. And ideally, this should all be spelled out in writing.
What is typically included in a relocation package?
Again, this depends on a number of factors, but here’s a general idea of some of the top expenditures that could be included in the relocation package:
- Packing/unpacking, shipment, and storage of household goods
- Home sale and home purchase assistance
- Mortgage assistance
- Temporary housing
- Home-finding and rental assistance
- Vehicle transportation
- Travel costs
- Educational consulting
- Spousal/partner career counseling
- Miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses
How will relocation expenses be paid or reimbursed?
Before you can negotiate your relocation package, you will need to have a thorough understanding of the costs involved, and which ones will be paid for by the employer, and which ones will be your responsibility.
The method by which relocation expenses are handled can also have important tax implications for an employee, so you should also speak with your accountant or CPA.
Here are some of the typical methods that companies utilize to handle relocation expenses and reimbursements:
This is exactly what it sounds like. The employer will provide you with a specified amount of money upfront for you to use at your discretion to pay for your relocation costs. You will want to do your research as soon as possible to make sure that the amount you receive will cover everything that you need it to, because once it is gone, it’s gone. If you feel that the amount is too low, then you definitely want to negotiate for a higher amount, but you will need to justify that to the employer. So, be ready with your facts and figures.
In this type of structure, the company will require you to pay for your relocation expenses, and then submit your receipts for reimbursement. Make sure that you are aware of the turnaround time between submitting your receipts and receiving the reimbursements. Also, make sure that you understand the company directed parameters around that, because companies typically set maximum allowable amounts. So, you want to be careful about staying within those bounds, otherwise it could end up costing you some additional money.
Relocation Management Company (RMC)
Many companies outsource their relocation management to an RMC, which will in turn manage the entire relocation process with the employee for them. If that is the case, then the RMC will be with you every step of the way, and will provide you with explicit instructions and guidance for how the relocation process and expenses will be handled and managed.
Strategies for negotiating a relocation package
Just as a job offer might have some wiggle room, so might your relocation package. Thus, the relocation package that your employer offers you might not necessarily be their best and final offer. So, here are some things for you to do and consider that will help you develop your negotiation strategy:
This is of utmost importance, because you want to make sure that you understand the typical relocation benefits offered to employees of your experience and stature, as well as the costs involved, and how the relocation will ultimately impact you. Think beyond the financial impact, and consider the physical, logistical, practical, and psychological aspects too. Fortunately, there are a lot of research tools at your disposal. You can do much of your research online, but also feel free to reach out to a recruiter, or discuss your situation with friends and family. Chances are that you know someone who has gone through a relocation.
Know what you want
Whether it’s a dollar figure or a need that is unique to you or your family, make this clear to the employer early on in the process. Perhaps you have a lease agreement in place that will cost you thousands of dollars if you terminate early. You will likely want to make this financial obligation an integral part of your negotiation strategy. You might also have school or daycare expenses that you would risk forfeiting, so include all such financial obligations in your negotiations.
Cost of living differential
Does your new city have a higher cost of living or a tighter housing market than your current city? Will your property taxes be higher? Are mortgage interests rates higher than you have on your current home? If you are moving to higher cost area, your dollars in general will have to stretch much further. So, make sure that you take this into account when negotiating your salary and your relocation package.
There will always be unexpected, miscellaneous expenses incurred during a relocation. Some might be covered by the employer, while others will be yours to bear. You will need to consider this as well when you are calculating any out-of-pocket expenses that might not be covered by the company. It’s a good idea to determine your threshold for such costs prior to negotiating your relocation package.
Put it in writing
When you present your case to the employer, it is always a good idea to put it in writing. Organize it in a way that is easy to follow and supports the additional costs or adjustments that you are requesting. More importantly, make sure that you point out the direct benefits to the employer for making the changes. For example, it could be something that would allow you to remain more productive during the relocation. This is something that is obviously important to employers.
A relocation is one of life’s most important decisions, and as such, it requires the proper due diligence on the part of the employee. That is the best way to ensure that you fully understand the offer that is being presented to you, and that you can negotiate the relocation package accordingly.
At VERSA, we are well-versed in all things related to relocation. Please contact us any time and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have about relocation packages, and provide you with the guidance that will help you make that important decision.