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Peer to Peer: I'm relocating for a job. Should I expect help with my move from my new employer?

Companies could be on the hook for relocation costs when recruiting senior employees
Cam MacMillan, Chad Rutherford and Chris McCann
Cam Macmillan: President, The Headhunters

Many of our clients will cover some if not all of the relocation costs depending on the role they are looking to fill.

If the position is in a remote area, typically costs will be covered. We have filled positions as far north as Inuvik and costs were 100% covered.

What that can include is having travel costs to investigate your new home (and it is very important to have the spouse or significant other to accompany you); costs of the actual move, short-term hotel or rental costs until your new home is ready to occupy.

One great option is spousal job support; in many of our remote searches the employer will gladly help the spouse find a position. Some of our mining clients will include airline tickets to return home once or twice a year. A full pack option with movers is a great benefit as is a transfer of your vehicles to the new location.

According to engineering recruiter Dave Banns: "My clients in northern B.C. understand the need for a smooth transition and go above and beyond to ensure the family has a comfortable move. That can include assigning a staff member to help the new employee meet those key contacts such as the doctor, dentist and teachers."

If the role is highly specialized or remote, chances of relocation assistance is much more likely. With top talent being so much tougher to find these days, the best employers will go to extraordinary lengths to get the best people.

Chad Rutherford: Managing partner – Vancouver, Summit Research Group

This is an interesting question that brings to mind another question: "How valuable are you to your new employer?"

If you are an executive with a unique forte, a technical expert or a worker with a particular skill set or potential contacts you might be able negotiate a full relocation package. This is typically the type of package that is reserved for companies moving an employee from city to city for a promotion or to fill a needed role. It would include such expenses as realtor fees, temporary accommodation costs and all other incidentals such as packing and moving charges. Obviously these are the most attractive packages, but remember they often come with a commitment clause: if you leave within a certain time frame you agree to pay all, or at least a pro-rated portion, of these expenses back to the company should your employment not work out for whatever reason.

Slightly more common relocation packages for a new employer would include a set dollar amount, agreed upon at the time you sign your contract, to cover relocation expenses.

By far the most common package I see is no package. Most of the time an employer is hiring you in a new city because you want to be there and have either applied or been contacted because you expressed interest in a particular city or role. In these cases, employers are not often interested in paying for your relocation and in many cases can hire someone locally with no question of any additional costs to them being incurred.

So, if your new employer wants you badly enough and you have something to offer that no one else can fill for them, then you’re in the driver’s seat. If not, look forward to your new role and accept that moving was probably your choice.

Chris McCann, vice-president of client services, McNeill Nakamoto Recruitment Group

Many organizations offer some relocation help, but the level of help usually depends on the position and the demand for that position. It is increasingly common for companies and recruiters to look for talent outside of B.C. 

I have certainly noticed an increase in the areas that I specialize in – namely, engineering, construction and environmental positions.  

In the past, most relocations were senior professionals. However, with large employment demands in the natural resources sector (mining, oil and gas, LNG, forestry) combined with an aging population, there is an increasing shortage of local candidates to fill all kinds of positions. These can range from senior geotechnical engineers to skilled trades and in some cases general labour. 

With more senior positions, the moving expenses are a big part of the negotiations, and the company generally covers most, if not all, of the expenses.  For more junior positions, the relocation package is typically smaller and negotiated to a lesser degree. The help from the new employer might be strictly monetary, paying for the physical move or just a lump sum amount, or it can be more expansive, covering such things as employment services for spouses, mortgage counselling, supply of temporary housing. 

If a relocation package is important to you, then make sure you clarify this early with the hiring manager or the recruiter to help steer any offers in line with what you want.

New employees should be aware that many of the moving expenses can either be tax deductible or a taxable benefit, depending on the level of support provided by the new employer. Also be sure to review your employment contract, because it often contains clauses that require you to reimburse moving expenses if you leave the company within a set time period.