It is fair to say that following the pandemic, the world of work has changed significantly. One major change is the ability, in some instances, for a job to be performed from any location, even overseas. Not surprisingly therefore, nearly 3 in 5 employees plan to work abroad, according to a report in People Management recently.
Whilst there are many scenarios involving working overseas such as business trips or short-term assignments, we consider in this article working from overseas on a longer-term basis. Assuming the business can accommodate working from any location, there is a lot for an employer to consider ensuring that performance is not disrupted, employees work safely and that legal obligations of both the UK and the country in which an employee is located are met.
10 things to consider when allowing overseas working
Here is our list of the 10 important considerations for employers when dealing with a request for working overseas:
- Set a framework for how requests are to be managed
- Establish if it is temporary or permanent
- Seek legal advice from the country in which the employee is to be located
- Ensure the employee has the legal right to work in the country
- Clearly define the rules for working overseas
- Consider any health and safety implications
- Consider how job performance can be maintained
- Understand how data can continue to be protected
- Find out how it will impact on the employee’s terms and conditions including benefits
- Consider how the employee-line manager relationship and with others can remain effective
Set a framework for how requests are to be managed
For fairness, and in ensuring consistency across the business it is vital to define a suitable process for how the business will deal with requests for working overseas. Given the UK already has laws in place around requesting flexible working, it would seem sensible to use this framework.
Establish if it is temporary or permanent
Establishing whether it is to be a short or long-term transfer is essential for establishing the legal implications of the move. There will be different legal requirements when moving overseas for more than 183 days compared to those who move for a period shorter than six months.
Seek legal advice from the country in which the employee is to be located
It is essential that when considering a request to work overseas that legal advice is sought in connection with the country of destination in respect of immigration rules, tax, and employment. The employee, whilst remaining an employee of a UK-based business, will have rights and entitlements associated to not just the UK, but for those in the country of residence.
Ensure the employee has the legal right to work in the country
Furthermore, whilst you will have already evidenced the employees’ legal right to work in the UK when they joined the business, you will also need to ensure that they have the legal right to work in the country they propose moving to.
Clearly define the rules for working overseas
To avoid misunderstandings, confusion, having potentially aggrieved employees, or even frustrations by the business on the arrangements, it is vital to have clearly defined rules for the new way of working. This should include having a clearly defined and well communicated policy as well as providing the employee with a written statement specific to their relocation. It should include things such as expenses, how trips to the UK will be managed, where necessary for the performance of the role, how IT systems will be provided and managed and many other points.
Consider any health and safety implications
With an employee working overseas, the business will continue to have a legal duty of care towards the health and wellbeing of their employee and must take appropriate steps to ensure this continues whilst working overseas.
Consider how job performance can be maintained
A key consideration of any request is how the business can be satisfied that performance can be maintained, regardless of location, and the relocation will not bring significant disruption to the performance of the role.
Understand how data can continue to be protected
There will be a need to understand the implications of a data protection perspective, especially if personal data is processed. There are strict data protection rules for transferring personal data to another country and so you will need to ensure there is the legal right to do so.
Consider how the employee-line manager relationship and with others can remain effective
Working remotely has its benefits, but it can also have its drawbacks too, especially in connection with communication and teamwork. It requires more input and effort into building and maintaining relationships.
It should be a requirement that employees who work overseas keep in regular contact with their manager to ensure that updates on the work being undertaken are discussed and agreed. It is also vital for the continuation of effective teamwork for the employee to also engage with their peers proactively.
Difficulties such as isolation and misunderstanding can occur when communication isn’t working as it should.
Communicate how it will impact on the employee’s terms and conditions including benefits
Having sought legal advice on how the employee’s terms and conditions of employment will be impacted by working in another country, it is crucial that this is documented for the employee.
Providing the employee with a written statement setting out the terms of employment that also take account of local laws in the new country of residence is necessary to avoid legal disputes.