How to handle requests from employees who want to work remotely from other countries

13 May 21 by Jessica English
Remote working

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a seismic shift in the way everyone now works. As employees made the transition from office to home working in March 2020, employers are perhaps receiving more requests from teams to make it more of a permanent feature.

And with workforces now equipped with the technology to work from anywhere, organisations may have been privy to colleagues asking to operate from an overseas location. For employers, there are many considerations to factor in if this happens. Jessica English, our ESP Law senior solicitor, recently explored the detail with Legal Practice Management magazine…

1. Matters concerning pay

How will employees be paid, and in which currency? Those will be critical questions for leaders to answer, let alone understanding what the tax implications may be in another country. For example, is there a requirement to pay tax and national insurance contributions in the UK, the country in which an employee proposes to reside, or both?

2. Impact on employment benefits             

It is important to understand terms surrounding benefits such as healthcare cover, and whether they would be available if a staff member was to work overseas permanently. Additionally, are reviews of company policies required – such as the expenses policy – to ascertain whether relocation and moving expenses are applicable to a switch overseas?

3. Immigration implications            

If an employee needs a visa or permit to work in their desired country, employers must be aware of this at the earliest opportunity, especially as there are likely to be costs involved for both parties.

4. Employment law jurisdiction issues        

Are there any additional employment law obligations for an employer to consider for an employee overseas? For example, are staff members legally entitled to additional annual leave – such as public holidays – or statutory leave whilst living and working in the country they have moved to?

5. Health and safety to address     

Obligations towards employees continue – regardless of whether they operate in the UK or abroad. However, during the current climate, countries will have varying levels of Covid-19 infection and health and safety standards, therefore it is vital for leaders to understand their health and safety obligations before a decision is made.

6. Assessing the practicalities

While there might now be a wealth of technology at people’s fingertips, not every piece of kit is going to operate at 100% all the time. If there is an IT issue, do leaders have processes in place for employees to have their digital headache handled effectively? If not, now would be the time to address this.

The above examples provide a snapshot as to a few of the considerations for employers and employees. If an organisation is handed an enquiry to work from home permanently – whether in the UK or abroad – the first step should be to analyse whether it qualifies as a flexible working request under the legislation, and always seek employment law, immigration and regulatory advice from an in-house or outsourced team where necessary. Overall, it is important to stress that these requests require a greater level of understanding and knowledge – it is not simply a case of approving an employee’s move to work in another country.


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Post by Jessica English

Senior solicitor, ESP Law Ltd

Jessica is a pragmatic employment solicitor and litigator with a range of experience in both private practice and in-house. Having begun her career in a Trade Union firm she made the move to exclusively advising businesses over 10 years ago. Her breadth of experience includes advising clients in the retail, manufacturing and transport sectors and immediately prior to joining esphr, she worked as an in-house employment lawyer for a national care charity with over 5,000 staff.