transfers

Employee moves are on the rise, and so are relocation benefits

November 16, 2012: 11:35 AM ET

Local talent shortages and rocky real estate markets have made employers more generous. Here's what you can negotiate for.

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: My boss just told me that my employer, a Fortune 500 company, wants me to take a new job in San Francisco, which is about 1,200 miles away from where I live now. The position would be a lateral move rather than a promotion but, the way it's been described to me, it does offer more opportunity for advancement than my current job, so it looks like a good career move.

I'm concerned, however, about the move itself, for three reasons. First, the housing market where I live is still so bad (my neighbor's home has been for sale for over two years with no takers), I doubt that I can sell my house except at a substantial loss. Second, the cost of living in northern California is much higher than where I live now, but is it customary to ask for a raise to cover that? And third, my partner has a thriving career here and would need some help finding a new job. I've heard that some companies offer "trailing spouse" job-search assistance, but is it realistic to expect that? Can I negotiate for it? — Up in the Air

Dear Up: You've picked an interesting moment to ask. Employee relocations have been on the rise since 2010, according to the latest results of a detailed survey that Atlas Van Lines has been conducting every year since 1967. "Lots of companies are struggling to put the right talent in the right places, and moving someone you know is often less risky than bringing in someone new," observes Ryan McConnell, an Atlas vice president. "But sometimes you just can't move an existing employee -- which explains why 52% of relocations last year were new hires."

MORE: 2012 Businessperson of the Year

Almost all big companies have formal relocation policies in place, so your first step should be to find out what your employer typically offers the people it transfers from one place to another. "Usually we see different relocation benefits packages at different levels," McConnell says. "A C-suite executive will get a different package from a middle manager, a skilled professional, or another category of employee." More

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