If my company moves, can I ask for relocation funds? Ask HR

If your company is moving, you may be able to telecommute or ask for relocation funds. (Photo: Getty Images)

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: I’ve been working at my company for 10 years, and leadership announced that they will be moving our headquarters to another city. This will double my commute time. Can I discuss this with my employer and ask for relocation money or telework benefits, or should I stay quiet? – Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: The short answer is yes – you can absolutely discuss these changes with your employer and HR. After all, company relocations aren’t small announcements.

Over the past 15 or so months, we’ve undergone drastic changes in where and how we work. Odds are, you’re not the only employee affected by this decision. If they haven’t already, your employer and HR team are likely working on plans or developing options for employees who will be directly impacted by the relocation.

If your job can be successfully performed from home, I encourage you to check your organization’s telecommuting policy to see if you may be eligible – whether it’s full time or a few days a week. If you’re unable to work remotely, you could be eligible for relocation assistance, which could include moving assistance, temporary housing, or packing services.

If relocation isn’t an option, your company may offer commuting benefits, such as a transportation stipend, mileage reimbursement, or even other accommodations such as a staggered schedule. Take a look at your employee handbook to review these policies – if there are none, you could ask HR if these are benefits they may implement soon given the change in location.

Again, I want to emphasize your employer likely recognizes this is a huge change for staff – I imagine the leadership team and HR spent a great deal of time going through the many different ways a decision of this magnitude would impact employees like you and identifying potential solutions.

While I can’t speak to the dynamics of your organization, I would bet questions about this change are expected and encouraged. Before you make any major decisions, start with an honest and open conversation with your people manager or HR about your situation. Hopefully, you can find an arrangement that works for all. Be well!

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Q: I am a chief engineer in a large hotel. Due to COVID-19, occupancy decreased, and I was laid off. Is my former company required to bring me back on board when times get better? If they publish ads for a chief engineer, should they offer me the job first? – Martin K.

Taylor: Thanks for writing, and I’m sorry to hear you were laid off during the pandemic. With 20% of employed Americans having been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19, it’s a difficult situation many working Americans are facing.

This might not be the answer you were hoping for, but unless you signed a contract or collective bargaining agreement with your employer, your company is not required to bring you back on board. If your company is unionized, they may be required to recall employees from a layoff.

However, if this isn’t your situation, it doesn’t mean getting rehired by your organization is out of the question. It’s actually not uncommon for employers to rehire laid-off workers.

As businesses begin to reopen, we could see this emerge as a trend for a variety of reasons – it demonstrates loyalty to solid employees, and bringing back a worker with a wealth of institutional knowledge can be more cost-effective than recruiting and hiring someone out of network.

You don’t mention how long you were at your company, but when rehiring, many organizations consider an employee’s tenure, job performance, and whether the layoff was part of a company restructure or just a slowdown in business. From what you’ve described, it sounds like your layoff was due to the latter, not your work ethic.

In the interim, I recommend reaching out to the company’s HR team for clarity on rehire policies and practices. They may be able to share plans, if any, for bringing employees back. And if your position is posted online, check and see if the job has changed or requires new skills or understanding of new technology.

You could also share an interest in other opportunities within the organization, even if they may be a bit different from your previous role. This will demonstrate dedication to the organization and your willingness to be flexible and agile.

I’ll share this: Even if employers are open to choosing an internal candidate, your company could still require you and other former employees to reapply and go through the interview process.

It’s been a tremendously difficult year, but I am confident brighter days are ahead. Good luck, and I hope you can return to work soon. 

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