Professional services company Ernst & Young has traditionally offered a two-year global exchange programme to its 114,000 staff.
However, through staff focus groups, it emerged that many employees would also like to have the option of shorter stints working abroad.
Riaz Shah, people leader for assurance and advisory business services at Ernst & Young, says: "Many employees felt that two years was too long and a big commitment." As a result, the firm has introduced 12-week stints alongside longer-term relocation. "They wanted something that would give a flavour of international secondment so that they could make an informed decision about a longer [trip] back to that country, to a different country, or to stay in the UK."
Employees on secondment abroad, whether for two years or 12 weeks, remain an employee of the UK company and their status only changes if they decide to transfer on a permanent basis to a new country.
The international benefits package itself, however, has not changed substantially over the last few years. "We pay for pretty much everything, from relocation to ongoing pension payments," says Shah.