10 Practical Considerations for Companies Who Have Employees Working Remotely Abroad

June 3, 2021

The onset of the global pandemic heralded a monumental shift in the way offices functioned and employees worked.  Remote working became the norm for most office workers, and evidence suggests that the remote working trend will continue post-pandemic. Pre-pandemic 6% of UK employees worked remotely, this figure now stands at 43%, and research shows that productivity has remained stable.  

The physical dimension of work has changed, technological advancement and innovation means business models are experiencing shifts.  Companies that are able to offer employees flexibility and to support true agile working will be the beneficiaries of this new paradigm of remote working.

There is no need for businesses to shy away from supporting workers who want to work remotely from abroad.  A recent survey found that industries with the most educated workers are offering increasing levels of remote working, with the ultimate aim of retaining their sought-after talent.  

There is also increasing evidence that employees want the option of working remotely abroad. The drive for remote working from abroad comes from the fact that the pandemic has made workers reassess their work-life balance, and their worth.  Working remotely offers flexibility and freedom, and whilst most employees do not want to permanently move abroad, they do want the option to elongate trips abroad and broaden their cultural landscape.  

The digital revolution is perfect for facilitating digital nomads, and more and more businesses are facilitating employees working abroad, and evaluating what this means for them in terms of policies and procedures.  Below we list the top 10 considerations for companies who are looking to facilitate requests from employees who want to work remotely from abroad.

Legal and Practical Considerations For Employees Working Abroad

As a company, there are many practical and policy considerations to look at when considering cross-border working.  Depending on what your industry is, you may need to review your working policies and contracts to ensure that they are comprehensive and fair.  

Before we delve into the considerations businesses need to be aware of, let’s start with why businesses should facilitate employees who want to work from abroad, and what benefits are available to employers.  Remote working can have the following positives for businesses:  

Of course, there are also legal and practical implications for businesses and the main ones you need to be aware of are:

Employment rights

Businesses should make sure that the employee’s contract of employment, and any rights within it, continue to be subject to UK law.

Tax

Employees could be subject to local income taxes, and some countries have obligations on employees and businesses to provide financial information. It is always important to check the tax laws of the country the employee wants to work from, ensuring that there is no obligation on the employer or employee to pay any duplicate taxes.  If you work from abroad long-term the host country may seek to tax the employee so check the rules of the country the employee is working from. Working abroad for less than 6 months is usually taxable in the UK, but anything longer would need consideration.

Social Security

As above with taxes, it is also important to consider any social security liabilities. Normally, with short periods of working abroad tax and social security rules will remain UK based.  

Immigration and Visas

Whilst the onus is with the employee to check the immigration and visa rules of the country they plan to work from remotely, businesses should be aware of any rules that impact them. Landthere.com can assist with visa queries, making the process seamless and easy.

Data Protection

If you have employees working remotely from abroad, the same data protection rules should apply as when working from home. The personal data of your employees will be covered by UK DataProtection laws.  If the employee has access to other people’s personal data then you need to be aware of the data protection and GeneralData Protection Regulations rules of the country they work in.  

Health and Safety

As a business, your health and safety obligations will extend to employees who are working abroad, so you will need to carry out the relevant risk assessments in respect of their working arrangements. There are companies who can streamline the workspace logistics, ensuring your employees have safe and covid-secure workspaces to work from.  These logistics teams not only provide employees with workspaces, they also provide additional ongoing support to businesses and employees.

Insurance

Employers should check to make sure that their policies if insurance will provide adequate cover for the work undertaken abroad, and in circumstances where employees become ill or injured abroad.  Additional insurance can be arranged fairly easily, but in the first instance, it is important to assess the breadth and scope of current insurance policies. Internal policies should also state that the employee must comply with the public health guidance of host country.

Contracts

Employment contracts should remain subject to UK jurisdiction, so you should check that the contract specifically states this. The contract should also state that the employee does not have the authority to enter into contracts for employment in the host country.  Contracts may also need to be amended to account for any change in core working hours for staff who work abroad with time differences.

Communication and Reviews

Communication should be open and transparent from both parties.  There may be employees who have started working abroad without notifying their employers.  Encouraging open and honest dialogues means the company can assist the employee and make sure they have everything they need to do their job effectively, and put in place effective review systems.There should also be support available for employees who want to return, or need help finding a safe workspace to use abroad.  

Equipment

Making sure your employee has the right equipment to work effectively is important but easily solved.  You should ensure that employees transport equipment properly and remain responsible for the equipment when abroad, just as they would if working from home.  Employees should be encouraged to report any problems with equipment and WIFI so that they can be quickly resolved. The employee has a shared responsibility to ensure they have WIFI and equipment required to work effectively.  Working within secure and safe workspaces means employees will feel supported and there is less risk of data breaches.

If businesses want to be ahead of the game and retain the best talent, they need to offer flexibility and freedom.  These are considered key competitive elements of any employment contract, particularly by millennials and Gen Z. Hybrid working, where employees are permitted to work from home, the office or abroad is emerging as a dynamic way of working, granting more autonomy to employees.  

 

 

Header Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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