How to Implement a Cross-Border Human Resources Policy

White & Case LLP


Drafting a cross-border human resources policy (such as a global code of conduct, global employee handbook, or a free-standing global workforce rule) may be a challenge. But legally implementing a global policy across multiple jurisdictions is an even bigger undertaking— one too frequently overlooked.

In this era of internationally-aligned business operations, multinational headquarters launch all sorts of cross-border human resources policies. Multinationals these days issue, for example: global codes of conduct; global and regional employee handbooks; one-off stand-alone policies on human resources topics (discrimination and harassment, email monitoring, anti-bribery, smoking and dozens of other topics); global safety protocols (global disaster-response, pandemic policies, global sets of “cardinal safety rules”); global intranets containing work rules; one-time global orders like litigation holds and crisis communications; global and regional sales commission plans—and so many others.

When a multinational’s headquarters launches any sort of cross-border HR policy, often the only question that gets asked is: “What is our new cross-border HR policy going to say?” But drafting policy text merely gets the cross-border HR policy launch process started. As soon as any cross-border HR policy is drafted, a multinational’s follow-up question immediately needs to become: “How are we going to impose this HR policy on our employees overseas?” That is to say, “phase one” of any cross-border HR policy project is simply drafting the policy text. “Phase two,” the more involved phase, should be implementing the policy legally across all affected jurisdictions. Unfortunately, too many global HR policy launch projects gloss over this “phase two.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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