Expatriation and secondment of employees, what are the differences for the employer?

Expatriation and secondment of employees, what are the differences for the employer?

18 November 2022 Corporate

Do you, as an employer, want to send one of your employees on an assignment abroad? Two options are available to you: secondment and expatriation of your resources. Although often confused, these statuses do not mean the same thing… What are the differences between expatriate and seconded employees?

The status of expatriate employee: definition

The expatriate employee is a status that concerns all people who are required to work outside their current country. This status is reserved for long-term assignments abroad. The duration of an expatriate employee’s assignment (which depends on each national legislation) exceeds that of the seconded employee status. The expatriate employee is no longer considered an employee of the company and is no longer attached to his or her original employer by a subordination link. A clause in the employment contract must specify the applicable law with regard to the conditions of reintegration of the employee in his original company. This is because the employment contract suspended during the assignment abroad is reactivated at the end of the assignment, when the employee returns to the country of origin.

secondment expatriation

As far as social protection is concerned, the expatriate worker is integrated into the social protection system of the country of expatriation. Depending on the local regime of the country of expatriation, the expatriate must take out additional health insurance. It is also important to take out international health insurance for expatriates.

Expatriate employee: the advantages

Freedom of choice

As an expatriate employee, you have freedom of choice according to the characteristics of the new contract, on the duration, the salary, etc.

Opening up to a new country

An expatriation offers the opportunity to discover a new country and its culture, to broaden one’s knowledge, while bringing a more general vision of the world.

Another important argument for the employee is the expatriation package offered to support the relocation, which may include numerous advantages (bonus, purchase of furniture, health coverage, outplacement firm, etc.) depending on the size and mobility policy of the group employing the worker.

The disadvantages of being an expatriate employee

  • The employee loses his/her seniority in the company and any associated benefits.
  • Moving abroad involves organisation, preparation and administrative procedures, both before and after departure. However, the employer can facilitate this transition by providing support to the expatriate employee during the installation.

Secondment of an employee: definition

differences secondment expatriation

Secondment is a status allowing an employee to work abroad on behalf of his employer. This status establishes a temporary duration, the length of which is determined in advance, ranging from a few months to a maximum of 3 years. The maximum duration of secondment varies according to the country in which the seconded worker is located.

Any employee can benefit from a secondment as long as he or she is employed by the company that wishes to second him or her. However, serious misconduct may lead to the worker being dismissed if he wishes to return to his original post at the end of the posting.

In terms of social protection, the seconded worker continues to benefit from the social security system of his country of origin.

The advantages of being a seconded employee

Minimum wage throughout Europe

In Europe, the seconded employee receives, in the worst case, the legal minimum wage of his country of origin. This principle is intended to ensure that the seconded employee maintains his or her standard of living, regardless of the country.

Immersion abroad  

One of the considerable advantages of secondment is the opportunity to travel and discover another culture and new places and landscapes, albeit for a shorter period of time than an expatriation.

Maintaining the original employment contract

A seconded employee is still an integral part of his or her home company, regardless of the country. Secondment is possible in all countries, whether they are part of the European Union or not.

The disadvantages of being a seconded employee

Let’s look at the disadvantages of being a seconded employee.


The status of a seconded employee allows for a unique adventure abroad. However, most companies use this type of contract for countries close to the company’s headquarters.  

The application for renewal

Seconded employee status is a temporary status, which can make things difficult if the employee wishes to stay in the country. In this case, the seconded employee who comes to the end of his or her secondment contract must apply in advance for a renewal.

Secondment, expatriation – what is the best status for an employee abroad?  

It is important to bear in mind that there is no best status, but that it depends on the company and its development, the mission entrusted and the employee.

As far as expatriation is concerned, it includes a great deal of flexibility and negotiation of the contract with the employee, as well as a precise study of the local conditions of social protection.

While the status of seconded employee is very interesting for employees wishing to go abroad for short periods, the cost for the company remains higher. It is important to recognise that secondment is more suitable for people with specific skills that are essential for the development of a company.  

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