How to support expat families 

January 16, 2020
If your organisation is struggling with assignment refusal, ensure you investigate the causes by confidential interview or survey. If  family concerns are an issue, ask yourself if you’re  doing enough to support expat families while they are abroad? Some common supports include:


Most organisations will provide some financial support to employees moving abroad but increases in expat assignments mean many have had to implement cost containment policies. Review your organisation’s financial support in relation to the needs of a partner or family. Can financial support be directed towards assisting a partner to obtain a visa to work or to find an appropriate role locally? Can you look at educational supports for children? If school fees aren’t realistic, could your organisation fund language classes for them?



Moving a family’s life across the world is a significant logistical challenge. Help with the practicalities is much appreciated. If your employees are based in a popular expat destination, there are likely to be relocation agents in the market that can help with:

  • visas 
  • finding somewhere to live 
  • finding schools for children

If your business can not find a suitable relocation agent, current or repatriated expats may be a good source of information.



If you provide pre-departure training to expats and their families before they leave on assignment, cultural awareness training may be included. However, there is also benefit in providing a cultural orientation after an expat has time to settle in to both their new role and life abroad. The initial few weeks are usually very busy between starting a new role and settling into their new home.


Local Mentoring

Although you may provide mentoring to expats when it comes to their role at work. Providing a mentor for their home life may be equally beneficial. If possible, match new expatriates with a mentor who has a similar family life i.e. families with children with other families with children, as they are likely to have better insight to offer on potential challenges. 


Health and Wellbeing

Last but by no means least, ensure expats and their families have access to healthcare in their new home. International health insurers provide specialist health insurance plans to support expat families

As family concerns are one of the main reasons that potential candidates choose not to accept expatriate roles, it is not always enough for your business to have support in place. It is also essential that the supports are communicated clearly to employees before and during their recruitment process. 

Communicate expat support across your organisation before, during and after an employee may be looking at roles abroad:

Include what is available to expat families in as many touch points as possible. This may mean mentioning it in orientation for new employees, adding it to employee newsletters or on the intranet for those researching expat roles.

For open expat roles, include an overview on available family supports with a link to a web page or document containing more detail. 

Once a candidate has been chosen, consider meeting a potential candidate’s spouse or partner to discuss the expatriation process in person and to provide reassurance on the support their family can expect throughout the expatriation process.