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I am a senior postdoc. My lab is moving from UK to Austria, the IST specifically. We have been told reimbursement for moving is not possible. There are tax benefits that we need to apply for, which would of course not cover the moving expenses directly, but over time.

And even so, we would have to apply for them, and may not qualify. Shouldn't personal relocation expenses (at least partially) be paid for by the lab or receiving institution, at the very least as a sign of good faith?

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    This is a workplace issue, or possibly legal, not an academic one. I sympathize, but no one here can really help other than to scream along with you.
    – Buffy
    Mar 19 at 15:43
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    I suspect there is little room for manoeuvre here. I do not know about Austria specifically, but in many countries the tax authorities lay down very strict rules about what is permissible around relocation expenses - presumably to avoid companies using this as a tax-efficient back-door to paying 'sweeteners' or 'golden hellos'.
    – avid
    Mar 19 at 18:29
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    thanks for screaming
    – wezmah
    Mar 19 at 18:35
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    This is on topic for the site, but it is not a question. It is a complaint. In many places moving expenses can be negotiated, but a sensible choice is to negotiate higher pay instead. Mar 20 at 6:57
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I assume you didn’t just walk in to the office one day and got told “pack your things! We’re moving to Austria!” Instead, my guess is you were asked if you were agreeable to the idea of moving, told under what terms, and agreed (well, perhaps with the alternative being that you would become unemployed, but still).

If my guess is correct, the time when you were asked would have been the best time to ask the question about relocation expenses. If you have already agreed to the move under terms that do not include covering your relocation expenses, then sure, you could bring it up now, but it’s possible that that ship has sailed; if the PI or receiving institution are stretched for cash, they have little actual incentive to be receptive to your wishes.

Bottom line: there is no “should” or “shouldn’t”. In the workplace, you commonly get what you have leverage to ask and can get people to agree to give you. It sounds like you don’t have that kind of leverage in the current situation. Perhaps your PI will be understanding and agree to your request, which is reasonable after all. But there is no rule or ethical principle that says what should happen.

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    Indeed. Presumably the legal position is that OP will terminate their employment in one country, and commence working for a new employer in a different country. Merely by coincidence, several of their current colleagues have also been hired by the new employer.
    – avid
    Mar 19 at 18:25
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    your guess is not correct - we were told over email that the PI was moving, and that was that. no negotiations. there's no should or shouldn't, I guess you're right since what does that even mean. I filed this under "emotional response" ya know. however i would simply like to hear other people's experiences with this sort of thing, so i can potentially understand what is acceptable behavior here, meaning is it acceptable to us as a society to relocate a lab but leave the employees to foot the personal relo bill
    – wezmah
    Mar 19 at 20:09
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    we labbies were never asked to provide input, correct
    – wezmah
    Mar 19 at 20:18
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    @wezmah well, honestly I don’t know what to make of this. Unless I’m missing some key piece of context here, this is no way to treat a senior postdoc or indeed any employee. Sounds more like indentured servitude than an academic job. With a boss like that, the relocation expenses may be the least of your problems. Anyway, good luck and I hope things work out.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 19 at 20:24
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    @wezmah: if I had never been asked, I'd seriously consider getting lost during moving. I.e., you do have a UK employment contract presumably specifying even a location within the UK. I don't think there can be any way how such a contract could change into an Austrian employment contract with some location over there automatically. So, consider whether you want to move or not. If you already signed a new contract, have a look at the probationary period and your rights to end that contract. Sleep a couple of nights over the decision, but don't let anyone bully you into moving where you don't... Mar 20 at 12:55
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It depends greatly on your current and prospective institution’s policies. Mine for example covers relocation, even domestically for new hires living more than 50km away and transfers between campuses (as we have several). The lab is obligated to cover this from our budgets for new hires so we cannot do so if we cannot cover these expenses. In my case (also as a postdoc) this is clearly stipulated in my contract and job listing.

I suggest you inquire with HR to fully understand your situation, there may be support you and your supervisor are not aware of. If for example your supervisor ends your current contract and hires you again at the new institution you may be eligible for this. Unfortunately there may not be and your institution may not be legally obligated to have a similar policy. Of course as your advisor they should have made some efforts to understand your options to relocate already. I do not mean to assume that they haven’t but they will be busy and may not have exhausted all options to cover these expenses. You should also make it clear to them that relocation expenses are considerable and are a significant concern for you.

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In my country, Italy, no one would pay the relocation expenses, especially at the postdoc level. I can hardly imagine any university administration in my country approve this kind of expense. Those I know who moved to nearby countries like France and Germany, and also UK, either at university or in industry, had to pay out of their pocket the relocation expenses.

Therefore, here around, I would consider the payment of the relocation expenses the exception rather than the rule.

On a side note, though, I'd consider the behaviour of your PI rather problematic, for not discussing first the relocation with the whole group, and I'd consider leaving.

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    I have received funds for relocation from multiple universities (not in Europe, though). In one case, I got a ridiculously large sum. Mar 20 at 6:55
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    @AnonymousPhysicist In Europe it is rather uncommon, at least in my experience.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Mar 20 at 6:58
  • thx to all for helping me come to terms :-<
    – wezmah
    Mar 20 at 12:15
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    I can speak for Germany: moving to a new job (which this would technically be) is up to certain limits an expense that can be deducted from income tax. This also means: reimbursement by the (new) employer is treated like a one-time bonus payment, and subject to taxation. My experience with this (years ago) is that if you do the moving yourself by car going only once, the deduction may cover the costs, if you go for more convenient options, it will cover a fraction of your costs. Mar 20 at 12:50

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