Over the past 18 months, the necessity to work remotely has developed many organisations’ willingness to accept longer-term remote working. This, along with the fact that an internet connection is often the only tether to the workplace, means some employees may be considering setting up their remote office abroad.
Here, Julia Fitzsimmons, head of FBC Manby Bowdler’s employment team, looks at what needs to be considered to incorporating overseas staff to your workforce.
It’s clear that the gentle easing of foreign travel restrictions is posing an unexpected headache for employers, who need to be on the look-out for potential digital nomads in their home-working workforce.
And as requests may not be made openly, organisations need to decide now where they stand, identify any risks, and develop a policy that is communicated to staff, so there’s no confusion.
That’s because working overseas could give rise to a range of issues for an employer, whether the employee plans are to make a long-term visit to Europe, or one of the countries which have introduced new visa schemes for extended visits.
Some of the problems that may impact employers include visa requirements, insurance terms, health cover policies and data protection concerns.
There is also risk that employees, either nomadic or those settled at home, may be frustrated at the potential differences in expectations or access to resources and support.
Key questions that need to be answered before any such policy can be introduced include:
- Can the employee legally work in the host country? Following Brexit, individuals may need relevant immigration permissions to reside and work in another country longer term.
- Will the employee become subject to local laws and employment regulations?
- Can a safe working environment be maintained? As well as responsibility under UK law, employers may find local health and safety requirements apply.
- Are there any tax and national insurance implications for the individual? Even when UK based PAYE / NI is deducted, local taxes could arise in the host country.
- Could it create a taxable presence for the employer in the host country, resulting in corporate taxes being due on locally generated profits?
- Is compliance an issue under data protection laws, for both the UK and the host country? Working from a different geographic location could impact on personal data processing, or the host country may have different guidelines.
The other vital consideration for overseas travel at the moment is whether employers will require staff to avoid countries with high levels of Covid-19, which could impact the employee’s availability to fulfil their role.
This is especially important with the regularly changing Department for Transport travel and entry requirements that can sometimes change with minimal notice.
If there is nothing to keep someone at home, the temptation may be to take a longer trip and work remotely, rather than viewing overseas travel purely as a holiday break.
It’s important to obtain advice on all the potential issues before deciding whether to let staff turn themselves into digital nomads, and it’s essential to have a clear policy for all overseas travel while the pandemic continues around the world, for however long, and communicate this to all staff so they are clear about their position.
However, if we’ve learned anything over the past 18 months, it’s that communication, understanding and adaptability are key when supporting your team, regardless of which time zone they are in.
If you’d like to discuss the best way to approach contractual terms, contact Julia Fitzsimmons on 01952 208420 or email at Julia.email@example.com.