8 minute read 15 Jan 2019
LGBT Inclusion in Asia pacific

How we can support mobility assignments for LGBT+


EY Oceania

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

8 minute read 15 Jan 2019

Inclusive policies, flexible mobility packages and open conversations are critical for supporting more diverse expatriate talent pools.

The ‘future of work’ is taking shape across Asia-Pacific. A more diverse workforce means a more diverse expatriate talent pool including (but not limited to) millennials, retirees, executive and non-executive females, singles, employees with non-nuclear family units, and LGBT+.

These factors are placing a greater emphasis on incorporating diversity and inclusion (D&I) into organisational policies and mobility practices.

For LGBT+ expatriates, differences across legal, societal culture, and company environments in host jurisdictions may make matters concerning family and on-the-ground support a multifaceted issue to work through.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Intersex Association as of 2016 around 75 countries consider homosexual relations to be unlawful.

An overview of sexual orientation laws in the world 

EY recommends starting with a heat-map to assess what may be acceptable approaches to LGBT+ inclusion in local contexts, and checking these periodically to be sure that nothing has changed in locations.

The Trans Legal Mapping Report (2017) showed that many countries are changing legislation to improve the working experience for trans persons. However, legal recognition of the reassigned, acquired, or preferred gender of a person may be treated inconsistently. For example, name changes may be possible, but gender markers on identity documents (birth certificate, identity cards) may not be possible or may be restrictive (requiring surgical reassignment or other validations). This can make it challenging for trans persons to obtain travel documents, open bank accounts, and gain visas and access to services in foreign countries.

In countries where same-sex marriage and relations are legal, and gender recognition is less restrictive, it does not necessarily mean that anti-discrimination protections exist for LBGT+ across employment, housing, healthcare, and services, or that local social and cultural views are accepting.

Definitions of ‘family’ in host countries add to the complexity, particularly for non-nuclear families and LGBT+. This affects visa eligibility, tax treatment, health insurance benefits and cultural belonging at social events.

Across Asia-Pacific, some markets are undergoing significant societal shifts. Support for LGBT+ inside organisations is maturing (or is in the process of being established). Japan’s First Lady Akie Abe marched in Tokyo’s Rainbow Pride Parade in 2014, and the Australian public voted for marriage equality in 2017 with a significant ‘yes’ majority. India decriminalised homosexuality in September 2018.

Supporting successful assignments for LGBT+

Across Asia-Pacific, several progressive organisations are actively seeking ways to ensure their LGBT+ expatriates ultimately have a successful assignment experience - professionally and personally. These organisations are doing three things to support their LGBT+ expatriates and expatriate talent pools:

1. Developing LGBT+ inclusive policies

Beyond creating policies that reinforce a baseline of safety and anti-harassment, features of LGBT+ friendly policies include broader definitions of ‘family’ and recognised partners (e.g. spouses, married, unmarried, civil partnerships and defacto), and harmonised benefits across genders and family structures (where practical). The extension of such policies extends to mobility.

2. Creating flexible mobility packages

The core/flex model is becoming the most common approach when introducing flexibility and inclusion into a mobility policy framework, but it is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Monique Dawson, Senior Manager in People Advisory Services (PAS) team specialising in Global Mobility suggests assessing three drivers when thinking about implementing a flexible framework:

  • Determine the assignment types that are required to support business objectives and workforce demographics (current and future). This could include — the reasons for mobility assignments, home and host location combinations, assignment duration and career stages of the expatriates. This can help open-up mobility opportunities to a wider talent pool.
  • Assess the need to implement flexibility and identify what administrative approach will suit the company culture. For example, providing a lump sum allowance can work for companies that have an embedded ‘self-service’ culture, whereas companies with high-touch employee support may benefit from a menu approach where expatriates can be guided though the available options.
  • Assess the infrastructure available to administer a more flexible framework. From a duty of care perspective, it is also important that expatriates are provided with the right level of guidance upfront to help them determine what benefits they truly need, in addition to what they might want (within the guidelines of the policy).
3. Supporting open conversations and on the ground support

Even when the policy is laid out, known facts about the local environment have been collected, and flexible mobility options are provided – honest and upfront conversations can help bridge the gap between policy and practice.

  • Show article references

    1 The data represented in this map is based on State-Sponsored Homophobia: a World Survey of Sexual Orientation Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition, an ILGA report by Aengus Carroll. The report and this map are available in the six official UN languages-English, Chinese, Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish-on www.ilga.org. This edition of the world map (May 2016) was coordinated by Aengus Carroll and Renato Sabbadini (ILGA), and designed by Eduardo Enoki (eduardo.enoki@gmail.com).

    Note: India decriminalised homosexuality in September 2018.


Companies need to look at flexible ways to configure assignments or transfer packages to meet the needs of changing expatriate profiles, including LGBT+ employees.

About this article


EY Oceania

Multidisciplinary professional services organization