For many of our clients and for employers generally we know that flexibility around remote working is becoming more and more critical to the talent engagement and retention strategy. Individuals are increasingly looking at more than just compensation, wanting to see hybrid working models, focus on mental wellbeing and options for working remotely, often overseas. We recognise that for our clients a remote working strategy can be challenging to roll out, not least because of the varied compliance issues that form part of such a working arrangement. We frequently advise clients that a key starting point is a comprehensive global mobility policy providing a framework for considering employment law, data protection, immigration and other regulatory/compliance focused matters.
It is not uncommon to speak with organisations that struggle to ‘police’ where their individuals are working and what for periods of time, leaving the organisation potentially exposed to fines and other action in response to immigration non-compliance.
Global Immigration Perspective
When individuals are seeking to spend time in another country other than their usual place of residence/employment, it is critical that the organisation first considers what permission may be required in order for an employee to do that. Each jurisdiction will have its own set of restrictions and permissions around entry for business visitor purposes. What may seem like a simple extension of doing my job from my laptop but in another country, may be leaving the organisation wide open to sanctions and reputation damage to boot. Pre-entry immigration permission may not always be required for a business visit. The issue often is that it is a grey area as to what constitutes a business visit and what extends into substantive work from the perspective of the immigration authorities in the host jurisdiction. It is also common to find that there is no exhaustive list of permissions and what is acceptable in one country can differ significantly in another.
In most cases an employer will find that what is permitted as a business visitor is not really of use when the individual is actually seeking to carry out their day to day role in another country. Such productive work would be prohibited as a business visitor, subject to very limited exceptions.
Foreign nationals may be permitted to work remotely in Singapore without the need for a standard work permit provided that their activities do not involve other Singapore based or Singapore registered clients. They are strictly prohibited from reporting to clients’ offices and must remain contractually employed by an overseas employer without any local presence in Singapore. An individual should not therefore be attending at a company premises on a daily basis.
Aside from these stipulations, an individual must also meet the requirements of confirming tax obligations in advance and ensuring they have a valid right to reside in Singapore. It is crucial to note that in Singapore, as in most jurisdictions, there may be a range of reporting and compliance factors to consider during a period of remote working.
Our global immigration team regularly advise clients on all of these aspects and provide clients with solutions focused strategies for successful business ventures in jurisdictions worldwide. Our team of employment lawyers provide expert, joined-up advice on secondment agreements for international moves.
Meet our Singapore Team at the Expat Academy Huddle on 12 October 2023.
If you would like more information on remote working and the key considerations for employers in Singapore please contact [email protected]