International Expansion Poses Significant Challenges for Global Employers, Says New XpertHR Report

Positive Discrimination, Corruption, and Collective Employment Among the Key Issues For Global Employers

New Providence, NJ (March 27, 2019) – As more and more American companies consider global expansion (53% of U.S. companies have some foreign involvement and 72% expect to increase their international share of business), they face significant challenges abroad, says a new XpertHR report. International expansion may be good for long-term growth, but it comes with its own set of global workforce rules, regulations and challenges, such as positive discrimination, corruption, and collective employment.

Many countries have laws to protect employees from discrimination that is directly or indirectly linked to a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics vary from country to country, but age, gender, sexual orientation, race, disability and pregnancy are often covered. Protection against harassment is also widespread.

On the other hand, some countries permit positive discrimination. Positive discrimination refers to treating an individual more favorably because of a particular characteristic. Where positive action is permitted, an employer normally may take measures to address a disadvantage to people with a protected characteristic in certain circumstances — for example, where they are disproportionately under-represented in the workplace.

Protection against discrimination is widespread in North America, Europe, South America and parts of the Asia Pacific region. But there is no specific prohibition, or only limited prohibitions, against employment discrimination in some other countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

It is also vital to understand ethical business requirements in whatever location a business is operated, the report notes. Bribery and corruption are concepts known around the globe and there are strict laws in place to combat them, though enforcement methods and sanctions vary significantly. Compliance is an issue that comes up all over the world, and organizations need to have a plan to help their multicultural teams deal with it.

Organizations can face severe consequences for failure to comply with anti-bribery and corruption laws, including criminal charges and financial sanctions. In some cases, individual employees (usually senior management) may be held liable, even if they were unaware of violations or did not encourage them.

In addition, collective employment law rights are highly procedural and vary from country to country. An employer is unlikely to be able to establish a single, harmonized policy that meets the minimum collective employment rights in all of the countries where it has a presence. A better strategy may be to establish general global principles to use when drafting policies in each country, such as those affecting pay and benefits, employment contracts and employment termination.

Because of the wide variety of country-specific requirements, a global employer needs to take into account several important factors when establishing a global strategy for handling industrial/labor relations issues beyond national boundaries. In each country in which it operates, it should understand:

  • How employees are organized
  • The role of unions in relation to terms and conditions of employment;
  • Any special legal protections that exist for unions; and
  • Circumstances in which industrial actions (such as strikes, boycotts and lockouts) may be taken.

"It's complicated enough to comply with employment rules and regulations in the United States," says report author Robert S. Teachout, SHRM - SCP, XpertHR Legal Editor. "As organizations expand to other countries and participate in the global market, it is vital that they understand and be trained in the business practices, employment laws and regulations of the non-U.S. locations where they operate."


For a copy of XpertHR's 8 Key Challenges for Global Employers whitepaper, visit XpertHR. Or download a copy of XpertHR's Improving Employee Engagement Checklist.

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XpertHR helps build successful workforces by providing practical tools, expert resources and agile HR solutions at the federal, state and municipal level to help businesses stay a step ahead.


Editor's Note: Robert S. Teachout, SHRM-SCP, XpertHR Legal Editor, is available to for interview. If you use any of this material, please include a link to

Media Contact:

Beth Brody (for XpertHR)