Imagine opening your inbox to find an email from one of your team members. They're asking for your permission to work overseas for a while. After all, your team is rarely in one location, and remote work has proven to be successful. Over the past 5 years, the landscape of working life has drastically changed. Remote work and virtual meetings have become the new norm, and people now have the expectation of being able to work from anywhere.
So, what do you need to think about when faced with this request?
#1. Do they have the right to work in the location they want to go?
Working on a tourist visa is generally illegal. Digital nomad visas are on the increase, with over 50 countries having this in one form or another. Essentially these allow people to work remotely where they have a foreign employer and are doing a job that can be done anywhere. However, most have a minimum earnings level or require individuals to have a set amount of money in the bank. Fees for obtaining them vary, with some countries up over $3,000 and the length of time it takes to process the applications also varies. However, these do provide a simpler way to enter a country legally. If someone does not qualify then ensuring you know whether there is another route of entry is important – getting it wrong can have financial and even criminal implications for both the employee and employer. If the employee cannot move to a particular country legally, you should be prepared to refuse the request.
#2. What is the reason for the move?
There might not he an apparent business reason but a motivated and happy employee tends to be a more productive one. If you cannot accommodate this particular move, are there other locations that might suit? Or a different duration?
If there is a big time difference, how feasible is it that the employee can join meetings? How do you make sure they still feel connected with the business? What can you do to ensure that the dream of working abroad does not turn into a nightmare for the individual? This may be as simple as regular check ins to ask and check.
#6. What about tax and social security liability?
If you say yes, and there is a tax or social security liability locally, is the employee aware of this and the amounts? Be clear with them that they are going to be responsible for the costs.
#7. If you say yes, do you want to set some conditions?
For example length of time, location and work duties? Or having travel and medical insurance?
#8. Are you setting a precedent by saying yes?
Documenting the reasons why you have approved a move and any conditions you set will enable you to act fairly and consistently with other requests.
#9. Have you considered duty of care?
What duty of care do you have to the employee and can you satisfy yourself that you can discharge this? Depending on where you are sending the employee from, you may have to ensure that they have a safe place to work, that they can travel safely and that they have safe equipment to work with.
#10. Are there any data implications to think about?
GDPR extends worldwide so you will need to know if your employee is processing data. If they have confidential data on their laptop, what steps do you have to take to protect that – for example do you have to stipulate where they cannot work remotely?
#11. Have you checked the employee's employment rights?
An employee who works abroad may obtain employment rights there, even If they are there for a relatively short time. These might include holidays, minimum pay, and rights on termination of employment.
#12. Have you checked what your employee is entitled to overseas?
If you have insurance and medical cover for your employees, check that these will continue to apply while the individual is overseas.
Many employers will want to be as flexible as possible and considering all the implications of a request to work overseas may feel a little overwhelming, resulting in the temptation to say no.
Professional advisers can help with many of the above considerations, and while this may seem like a costly option, the benefits to the business of being able to say yes may outweigh these. Also, a clear and documented policy around what you will and will not be able to accommodate, the conditions and process for approvals will save you from having to reinvent the wheel for every request. Lastly, documenting agreements made between you and the employee will protect you both, for example making it clear that any individual tax and social security due abroad is the responsibility of the employee.
It is unlikely that remote working requests will decline, and in order to retain a competitive advantage, a flexible approach is called for. Doing the work to accommodate requests where it makes overall sense is a sensible use of resource.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and may not reflect the opinions or views of Workia. Always seek professional advice based on actual circumstances before acting.