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How to ensure South African relocations are compliant

By sending employees to or from South Africa to work in local offices, an organisation’s leadership gains confidence that the company culture will be maintained, which protects its brand and reputation. However, South Africa presents a particular challenge. The experience of Bell Pottinger, which went into administration after a reported racially-divisive campaign, demonstrates that operating with integrity is not a luxury – it’s a must-have for every organisation. Even major international firms like KPMG have been caught up in scandals.

Yet corruption is a major issue in the South Africa, which means that organisations need to have robust policies in place to make sure that they do not fall foul of local laws or become drawn into unethical practices.

Relocation risk management

The key to compliance is understanding the risks and establishing best practices for everyone involved in arranging the relocation, and at every stage of a relocation process. While many of these things are obvious – such as obtaining the correct visa, arranging safe accommodation and shipping household belongings – some things are less easy to deal with, such as tax and allowances. The length of time a relocated employee spends in South Africa will have an impact on their tax status, which in turn impacts their remuneration levels. So it’s important to find expertise in the right areas.

Obtaining expert assistance

By creating a risk analysis of each stage of the relocation process, it’s easier to see that the process is impacted by third parties. Understanding tax risks means using locally-trained accountants, moving home and obtaining the correct visa also means using relocation companies, which requires interaction with government officials.

Organisation size is no indication of ethics and integrity, as Bell Pottinger demonstrates. So, any organisation or individual who is part of the process but not part of your organisation needs to be checked. Due diligence means checking public documents and news reports, looking for trade accreditations and so on. For long-term relationships, it may even be worth appointing a due diligence investigator to speak to past customers and employees. Consider whether the organisation aligns with your organisation’s values, or if there is any indication that the organisation has cut corners in the past.

Other compliance issues

Avoiding a situation where an employee or third party has been involved in bribery or corruption is not the only compliance issue that could arise during a relocation. The standards of data protection and health and safety may well differ to that of your organisation’s host country. The Protection of Personal Information Act was introduced in 2013 in South Africa, but its full impact may not have filtered into every part of society yet. South Africa has some robust health and safety laws, so it’s important to know that any person involved in a relocation will not disregard them to save time or money.

Moving to South Africa is an immensely rewarding experience for many. By following a well-thought-out procedure, it’s possible to manage a relocation without being exposed to risks to an organisation’s reputation or an employee’s welfare.

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