Though recession appears to be looming, the UK recruitment market remains hot with employers vying for the best candidates, whether those candidates are based at home or overseas. With such competition for skilled staff, rewards packages are becoming ever more important as employers looking to attract and retain the best staff. But what does that mean for those transferring intra company to the UK?
Many multinational employers have historically sought to provide broadly standardised benefits globally, with regional variations linked to legal and regulatory requirements in the local territory. That is changing in response to candidate demand for packages which are tailored to the individual’s needs. This shift away from uniformity can, if not carefully managed, lead to differential treatment which may fall foul of UK discrimination laws.
Staff who transfer to the UK may, depending on the length and purpose of their assignment, work under their overseas employment contract or, more commonly, under the terms of a UK contract or UK secondment / assignment agreement. It is imperative that whatever arrangements are in place, they are well documented and kept under review because as the employment relationship changes and develops, so might the laws which protect the employee.
Rules on territorial scope will dictate whether an employee is entitled to benefits (such as minimum paid annual leave and family leave rights) under UK laws. For an employee on a UK contract who spends all of their time working in the UK for a UK based entity, the situation is straightforward, they will benefit. However, the matter is less clear cut for employees who spend part of their time overseas and it’s worth remembering that some employees might want to argue that UK laws don’t apply to them (particularly if their home rights are more generous).
Beyond rights under law, employers should be careful to avoid differences in benefits packages which cannot be clearly justified. Differences in treatment between workers hired in the UK and those transferred to the UK from an overseas group company should be minimised, if they cannot be eliminated entirely, to reduce the risk of discrimination claims. Additionally, employees with two years continuous service (and in many cases employment overseas will count towards the employee’s continuous service) are protected against unfair dismissal. Differential treatment which is for no apparent reason may well breach trust and confidence entitling an employee to resign and assert that they have been constructively unfairly dismissed.