The international job market presents a whole new array of challenges and opportunities to HR professionals in law. This is a landscape in which every international jurisdiction is different in terms of working environment, benefits, taxes and cultural norms. Here’s a lowdown on some of the most popular destinations to help those in HR get ahead of the game.
The Middle East
Most law firms have a presence across the Middle East with offices in Muscat, Riyadh, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai but Dubai is often seen as really hub in terms of roles and activity.
Dubai has always been an attractive location for those seeking international exposure, primarily because of its tax free status. However, it is worth noting that although not paying tax is certainly a bonus, Dubai is an expensive place to live: the cost of renting and utility bills are particularly high.
In terms of benefits, most firms will offer private healthcare but it is worth noting that there are no obligatory state or employer contribution insurance schemes. There is also very little scope for flexible working, including working from home, and standard maternity leave is 35 days.
Singapore is often seen as the gateway to the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) network with some roles having a focus across this area. ASEAN is primarily made up of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand with the purpose of accelerating economic growth and promoting stability across the region. Although most Singapore-based roles will have a strong regional focus, they also tend to encompass other countries including Jakarta, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur as well, so travel within South-East Asia is common.
The business language in Singapore is English, which makes relocating from a language perspective very straightforward. Although the tax rate is much lower in Singapore than the UK, typically up to about 15% depending on salary, it should be noted that tax is not deducted at the source. This means that the onus is on the individual to save towards their annual tax bill each month and then pay the full amount at the end of each year. Mandatory pension contributions are paid to permanent residents only and do not apply to expats.
Hong Kong falls within the remit of greater China and is still perceived as being a hub for China, although there are an increasing number of roles being located in Shanghai, Beijing and Bangkok. Although for some roles there is no language requirement, roles requiring either Mandarin or Cantonese are becoming increasingly common.
Taxes work in a similar way to Singapore and you typically pay up to 17% tax on average. Benefits will typically include medical cover, life insurance and pension contributions. You will typically receive less annual leave compared to London, but there are on average 17 public holidays per year which makes a big difference.
The two hubs for roles tend to be Sydney and Melbourne. It is harder to secure sponsorship for Australia compared to Asia or the Middle East but we are beginning to see sponsorship offered from Officer/Executive level upwards as firms increasingly look to fill roles with talent from overseas. Although the majority of benefits are similar to those you would expect in London, it is worth noting that firms do not offer private healthcare due to the tax implications. It is also worth noting that most salaries advertised also include superannuation (the way that the Government ensures you save for your retirement and the money comes from employer and employee contributions). This means that the take home pay for most salaries advertised will be lower than you may initially think as a result of these contributions.
Most firms will offer a standard relocation package including flights, temporary accommodation, shipping costs and all associated visa costs. Some firms will include a rebate clause in their contracts if you leave within a certain timeframe (usually up to a year) and so it is vital that recruits do their homework before making the move.
It's little surprise that roles abroad require proper research - not only to understand the remit of the roles on offer but also the cultural differences. As an HR professional, the more you know and understand these growing global opportunites, the better placed you will be to support your firm's international recruitment as well as your own global career aspirations.