You’ve gotten a new job or promotion that requires you to pick up your life and move to a new city. And, if you’re lucky, your new job will give you relocation assistance. But what is relocation assistance and how does it work? And do you ever have to pay it back? (Yes, sometimes you do.)
What is relocation assistance?
Relocation assistance is the financial package offered to you by your employer when you have to move for a new job or a promotion. It’s designed to help cover or offset the cost of moving. Every relocation package will vary in size and what it can be used for, but it typically covers things like professional movers, rental deposits, driver’s license fees, etc.
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What does relocation assistance cover?
The size of your relocation package and what it covers will vary depending on factors like the company, the distance you have to move, the size of your family, how highly you rank in the company, and how quickly the company expects you to move (all of which can be used as leverage in your negotiation—more on that later).
We can’t tell you how much money you’ll be given to make the move, but we can tell you what this money can be used for generally. Note that relocation packages can be very broad, and there are plenty of uses not listed here.
The cost of breaking a lease or a real estate agent to sell your home
At least one house-hunting trip before you officially make the move to your new city, including your hotel, meals, and a real estate agent to show you properties
Temporary housing and/or temporary storage of your belongings
The cost of a moving truck and/or professional movers, plus things like boxes and packing tape
The cost of things like getting a new driver’s license in a different state, turning on and off utilities, cancellation fees at your child’s daycare, etc.
How does relocation assistance work?
There are several ways you might receive your relocation assistance money.
Some companies will give you a lump sum to be used at your discretion.
- Others will give you a lump sum and provide you with a list of acceptable uses and require proof that the money was used only in this way.
Some will ask to be billed directly, i.e., they pay the moving company directly.
Some will add a little boost to each paycheck until the agreed-upon amount has been paid to you.
Others still will only provide reimbursement for approved relocation expenses after the fact.
Some companies contract with a third-party to administer the relocation package. This means you won’t deal directly with your hiring manager or recruiter on the matter, but communicate with a separate company that handles paperwork, reimbursement, repayment, etc.
Is relocation negotiable?
Yes! You can negotiate your relocation assistance package. In fact, if you are having trouble negotiating a higher salary, your relocation assistance package can be a way for you to get more money upfront.
If the company expects you to move for your job, it should provide you with some kind of relocation assistance.
6 questions to ask about relocation assistance
Beyond negotiating the dollar amount of your relocation package, there are other questions you should ask the human resources professional handling your relocation.
1. I would like to negotiate relocation assistance package. It this possible?
Before you can negotiate your relocation assistance, it’s a good idea to gauge whether or not the number is flexible. In most cases, you can negotiate. Sometimes, though, a company has a set dollar amount they offer based on quantitate factors like distance, salary, and family size.
2. Whom should I contact with questions about the assistance?
Questions are bound to pop up. Having a direct contact makes getting them answered quick and easy.
3. How will the money be disbursed/administered?
There are a handful of ways you might receive the money (detailed above), and you need to be sure you understand where the money will be coming from.
4. When will I receive payment?
Moving is expensive. And knowing when to expect the influx of cash can help you budget your big moving costs.
5. Do I have to work with an approved list of movers/packers/etc.?
Some companies may have a list of preferred service providers they require (or at least encourage) you to work with. You want to make sure that you and your employer are on the same page so you don't encounter any surprises later on.
6. Under what terms will I have to pay back the relocation assistance money?
Like all things in business, relocation assistance comes with terms and conditions. Make sure you know what T&Cs are attached to yours before you settle on a relocation assistance agreement.
Some employers will require you to stay with the company for a certain amount of time in order to avoid repaying the money.
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