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How to Navigate the Complex Compliance Frameworks in GCC Countries?

February 26, 2024 thehrobserver-hrobserver-compliance-GCC

Foreign investors are often attracted to the strategic location and business-friendly policies of countries within the Gulf Cooporation Council (GCC). Consequently, businesses are compelled to regularly seek guidance from industry professionals to navigate the complex compliance frameworks of each country.

In the UAE, this extends to corporate travel, particularly given the establishment of global company presence and increasing prevalence of remote work options. A Bayt report indicates that 85% of MENA professionals favor companies that offer remote work opportunities. Therefore, businesses are encouraged to develop innovative global mobility strategies for their international workforces, leading to heightened demand for corporate travel to ensure business continuity and support various activities. 

HR departments are pivotal in this undertaking, tasked with the delicate balance of meeting employee needs, fostering transparent communication and upholding adherence to policy guidelines, especially those related to corporate travel. Successfully navigating regulatory compliance concerning corporate travel demands a robust and resilient system that enables businesses to handle a range of dynamic regulations while aligning with company policies and procedures.

Below are key points to be considered when dealing with travel compliance:

Centralising policies for clarity

Engaging in cross-border travel exposes individuals to various legal, cultural, and regulatory disparities and, when employees participate in said travel, it can impact the business. Centralising compliance procedures for international travel involves establishing and implementing standardised rules applicable consistently across all regions where a company operates. This includes creating a clear policy related to travel booking, expense reporting, cultural considerations, and legal requirements. Businesses should establish safeguards that protect their financial interests, maintain corporate integrity, and allow for uninterrupted cross-border mobility.

Leveraging technology for efficient pre-approval

Integrating innovative technology into short-term immigration processes can significantly streamline workflows. Advanced technologies, such as Fragomen’s short-term immigration compliance solution, Nomadic, tap into stored data from a client’s traveller profile, completing applications in just four minutes—a task that would manually take nearly nine times longer. Organisations explore these alternatives to ensure compliance with global travel regulations, streamline document acquisition and reduce the reliance on manual intervention and avoidable bureaucratic hurdles. Additionally, against the backdrop of the UAE’s growing digital infrastructure and economic diversification goals, leveraging this technology aligns with the government’s strategy to promote innovation and sustainable growth.

Providing cultural awareness training

Due to the expanding international workforce in the UAE, cultural awareness training is essential for employees engaged in both inbound and outbound work-related mobility. This is necessary to ensure that employees represent themselves and the organization positively. Equipping employees with knowledge about various local customs, business etiquette and legal nuances can help organisations and their employees reduce the risk of inadvertently violating norms during business trips. Moreover, cultural awareness training is not just limited to corporate travel; it also has a broader impact on how employees engage with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds within organisations.

Monitoring travel data to identify compliance trends and risks

Proactive monitoring of travel data is crucial for identifying compliance trends and efficiently mitigating risks. HR departments can detect anomalies or deviations from established policies, enabling timely intervention to address potential compliance breaches. A proactive approach also enables HR teams to mitigate the impact of uncontrollable situations—such as bad weather, natural calamities, social unrest, and public health emergencies like COVID-19—by identifying high-risk destinations or travel routes and using the right travel vendors to ensure smooth travel experiences.

Additionally, leveraging travel data empowers HR departments to make data-driven decisions, optimise travel policies and allocate resources more efficiently. Companies can also gain more insight into the travel habits and preferences of their employees by implementing a well-defined internal system to track cross-border mobility. This information can be used to create more effective policies and select travel options that employees want, which will improve their travel experiences while simultaneously adhering to corporate policies.

Author
Murtaza Khan

Fragomen's Regional Managing Partner, MEA

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