Hello all, we have found an increase in requests from employees wanting to work from abroad. Currently, we do not offer any secondment to work abroad or have any of our employees working abroad for any given duration as we are a national business therefore, there is no business need.
Has anyone else in any other business experienced these types of requests and what have been the considerations to accept or reject these?
The main concerns we have with these requests is tax, GDPR, how to distinguish what is a holiday and the abuse of introducing this method of working, health and safety and many more.
Is there anyone that adopts a policy or allows working from abroad on a personal basis and not for business reasons that is able to provide some insight into how did you overcome these concerns and what approval processes have been implemented ?
You've certainly asked the question in the right place. There have been a lot of previous discussions around this topic, and it is obviously a business decision... but do have a look through some of the more recent threads, e.g.
The short answer is "no". The long answer is "NOOOOOOOOOO!"
Less facetiously, HMRC allows for employees to work remotely from outside UK tax borders for up to (iirc) three weeks. Beyond that and employees and employers become liable to pay tax in the country where the work is being performed. This means that employers need to have a legal trading entity established in the country in question with the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that all deductions and payment conform to the requirements of the host country.
This means that if you already have a trading entity in the host country, employment should be transferred to the host entity. If you don't, you will have to set one up and that can be complicated and expensive and risky - especially if you don't have an in-country specialist to do it for you.
In the vast, vast majority of cases the work of the employee simply isn't sufficiently valuable enough to make this effort worth pursuing.
Another aspect beyond the taxation and risk of setting up a permanent establishment is that you do need to be very conscious of is immigration. A lot of visitor/tourist visas do not allow "working" and there are some countries that are stricter about this than others.
Like Robey, we have had to say a strong no to a lot of requests (we are a global company so colleagues do expect to be able to move overseas without understanding the complexity involved). We allow it for a short period, especially if it assists with an acute personal situation (caring for elderly parents overseas as an example) but have a limit. We put a policy in place to cover the short visits and have had to say that longer stays/permanent moves cannot be accommodated unless the business requires the colleague to relocate.
Just out of curiosity, if someone is on a long overseas business trip does that count differently? We had some colleagues travelling across Asia on business last year and I can't recall if it was over three weeks or not but this topic has got me thinking about it!
The other big consideration is employment law - most countries have laws that mean if they class someone as 'resident' in that country and they are working, that work is bound by the employment laws of that country. Therefore, in addition to all the excellent points from others, you may also need to provide different contracts of employment and or provide different benefits (e.g. employers of people living in Spain have to provide private medical insurance). There can also be differences in terms of how you dismiss etc.
I work for a UK charity so like others above no business benefit except retaining engaged colleagues. We’ve allowed a few where the colleague has an existing right to work in the host country. We allow up to 10 working days, matched or exceeded by annual leave days to enable visiting family further afield
The other consideration which is often overlooked is GDPR. Many countries in South Africa are not covered by it. This may not be the biggest consideration, which for me would be differing employment laws/cultures.