Is it fair to force employees to relocate?

Most HR experts feel it is not fair, especially if the company offers no support for relocation or added benefits

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Relocating an employee to another place or office is nothing new. Many organisations rotate their employees across their many locations. It’s a good move for both sides as the organisation manages to use its own resources at another area, while the employee gains exposure to the work environment of different places. Ideally, in such cases, a company sweetens the move by offering attractive options, such as a hike in salary, relocation costs, and so on. The concerned employees are also given at least a month’s heads-up and not less, to make the shift. But what happens when relocation is the only option without any added benefits or perks?

As per reports, upGrad has seen mass resignations recently after it decided to hurry back employees to its Mumbai and Bangalore offices. It’s not about asking its employees who — moved back home during the lockdown — to get back to office. Even the new joinees, who were hired at other locations have been asked to make the shift, and that too within a few days. This has created a major chaos in the edutech industry and all everyone’s asking is, ‘Is it fair to do so?’ We asked HR experts the exact same question and found out that it all depends on what the clauses in the contract are.

Any organisation, which is people oriented, will take care of its employees, and offer a relocation policy for moving from a non-metro to a metro or a costlier city.

Anil Mohanty, head – HR, Medikabazaar

Mobility of candidate a plus point

Ranjith Menon, SVP HR, Hinduja Global Solutions, asserts that if there is a clause in the employment letter that an organisation can ask someone to move to certain locations, it’s fair. “In my experience of working abroad, most of the senior management positions always consider a person’s mobility as one of the key criteria for getting hired. For people to move into global roles, many organisations mandate the person to be mobile. Generally speaking, however, can companies coerce them to relocate? The answer is ‘No’. They need to have a clear business motive. If there is compelling business reason for the move, the organisation can put an offer on the table,” Menon insists.

Company’s code of conduct

There will be a code of conduct and standing orders in a company. Menon is confident that in an employee-centric company culture, organisations actively look at other comfort factors that will keep the move feasible for the company and employee.

“In a normal world, if a contract has a clause that they are bound to, it’s the duty of the employees and the organisation to arrive at an amicable decision. Outright refusal means one is not agreeing to the company’s code of conduct. But it is also an organisation’s job to be humane and see how it can make this happen in the right way,” Menon points out.

In upGrad’s case, Business Insider claims that many who were hired at locations, such as Gurugram, Pune, Kolkata and Hyderabad, have been asked to move to Mumbai and Bangalore without any hike in remuneration or temporary accommodation or even relocation support. That definitely doesn’t make for a great picture.

Anil Mohanty, head – HR, Medikabazaar, asserts that a company has to give a minimum of one month to the employees to make the move. “Any organisation, which is people oriented, will take care of its employees. In my previous organisation, there was a relocation policy for moving from a non-metro to a metro or a costlier city. One, such provisions take care of everything — 15 days’ stay in a hotel or reimbursement of expenses incurred in looking for a new place. I remember, for Mumbai, we had a policy where the individual got extra salary to take care of the expenses there. Once the person moves out of Mumbai, the city allowances are dropped. Two, the organisation takes care of the security deposit of the rental. The employees get a minimum of one month to relocate,” Mohanty explained. He clearly is against the idea of springing a relocation on employees out of the blue without any additional support.

Most of the senior management positions always consider a person’s mobility as one of the key criteria for getting hired. For people to move into global roles, many organisations mandate the person to be mobile.

Ranjith Menon, SVP – HR, Hinduja Global Solutions

Pandemic, an exception

Many would assume this could be the outcome of COVID-19. An HR expert on condition of anonymity, reveals, “It is important to understand why the company is asking for it. The upGrad story is an aberration because of COVID. Had there been no pandemic, none of this would have happened. Today, virtual interviews and onboarding are a norm, but due to bandwidth or infrastructure, some people may not be able to report to office for training. Due to a similar incident in my organisation, some new hires resigned. We had many youngsters from tier-II/tier-III cities, joining for the work-from-home option. Now, when they are asked to come to office for a month’s training, their parents are not allowing them to leave, forcing many to resign.”

It obviously isn’t fair to coerce the employees into moving to another city without proper support from the organisation. It seems the devil hidden in the details and clauses of the employment contract can be an employee’s undoing here.

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