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Remote Working Abroad – The Ultimate in Workplace Flexibility

When COVID 19 hit, every business that could had no option but to roll out homeworking to ensure their business continued to function in unprecedented circumstances.  There was no time to plan or decide on policy and, in firefighting mode, most businesses gave little or no thought to what the working world would look like post pandemic.  Many businesses were incredibly flexible, more than they would have been in any other situation (including now) – allowing employees to work from just about anywhere – whether home or overseas (for example if they returned to family, or got stuck in location because of lockdown).

Businesses are now dealing with the post COVID “hangover” of staff who enthusiastically adopted this new way of working and are reluctant to give up their newfound freedom and the work-life balance it provides.  Some businesses have fully embraced the flexibility that pandemic working conditions demonstrated was possible.

Few have returned to pre-pandemic working conditions.  The majority are somewhere in between, trying to implement working conditions that are sufficiently attractive to  bolster recruitment, embrace flexibility to a degree that satisfies staff who very quickly got used to remote working, and simultaneously maintain some of the business ethos that existed pre pandemic.


Remote working can carry significant benefits, but is also presenting businesses with significant challenges, such as:

  • Monitoring work performance, and performance managing underperforming remote working staff.
  • Managing employees that want to work from home all of the time, a la pandemic, with arguments by employees ranging from childcare commitments, to cost of travel, to mental health requirements, stress of commuting, work-life balance and relocated homes that make the journey “impossible”.
  • Managing requests to work remotely outside of the UK on a permanent basis or because of extenuating circumstances.
  • Requests to “wrap work around holiday” – i.e., work in the holiday location before or after (or both) a period of holiday.


All of these issues present significant challenges for a business – and, whilst a sensible approach is to have a solid policy that is clearly articulated, no policy can plan for every eventuality. Policies make managing situations easier and communicating difficult decisions less painful (“I’d love to but…. policy!).  However, businesses first need to decide how they will address some of the challenges presented – especially when requests are to work not just remotely, but abroad.


Work Abroad Requests – What to consider…..

  • Place of Business / Corporate  Values / Regulatory  issues – is there a risk of establishing a “place of business” in a jurisdiction in which the business does not already operate. This can be an important consideration for many employers and may be influenced by the type of work the employee performs, meaning that a business might be able to grant a request for some employees and job roles but not others. Are there regulatory  issues that need to be met? Other considerations may be whether the employee will be working from a jurisdiction that raises potential political  issues (embargos / deemed exports / sanctions etc.) or is at odds with the core values of the business (for example LGBTQIA etc. rights).
  • Immigration status – does the employee have the right to work in that jurisdiction – are additional visas / permits required. An individual is normally permitted to work from the country of which they are a citizen, but if they are not a citizen they are likely to need appropriate work permissions to work and reside in the chosen location.  Specialist advice is likely to be needed in each instance and consideration given to what this means for the business when some requests can be granted and not others.
  • Discrimination  arguments  – permitting work from one jurisdiction  but not another may create resentment and potential arguments of discrimination if one employee can substantiate that they have been treated less favourably than another.
  • Local employment rights – mandatory rules of law cannot be overwritten by contract, meaning that local employment rights (some of which will be acquired from day one) will need to be considered in terms of how employees are contracted, treated whilst employed (sick pay, hours of work and local holidays for example) and rules that may apply should an employee need to be dismissed. Local advice will need to be sought for every jurisdiction. In some instances, local mandatory rules of law will not only affect obvious issues such as termination rights or discriminatory treatment, but also contract terms that must be provided to employees working locally (overseas equivalents of S1 Employment Rights Act).
  • Health and Safety Obligations – will need to be checked in each jurisdiction to ensure the business is meeting local obligations in terms of health and safety and workplace assessments / requirements. For example, office set up, provision of equipment, COVID risk assessment etc. What if an employee becomes unwell or suffers an injury in the local jurisdiction, will this cost be the responsibility of the business?
  • Insurance / cost contributions – Will someone working from their home / a parent’s home abroad invalidate home insurance cover  by working there?  Is  a specific  policy  required?  Who will  be responsible for checking, implementing  and footing the bill?   In some jurisdictions an employer may be required to contribute to utility costs incurred in connection with homeworking.
  • Health insurance – many employees working abroad (especially temporarily) will not be entitled to local healthcare (even if this is available). Will private healthcare be provided? Many private policies will not cover employees when working rather than travelling for tourism purposes. What happens if an employee  is injured or becomes unwell whilst abroad? Whilst this may have been a lesser consideration  within Europe  whilst  the UK  remained in the EU,  that is no longer the case. Healthcare  that is needed without appropriate insurance cover in place could prove very costly.
  • Data protection rights – as a result of the employee working overseas is there a risk that personal data will be transferred? If this is the case (and it will be in many instances) businesses will need to ensure compliance with GDPR and local data protection rights. With the UK no longer being in the EU this is even more likely to mean ensuring appropriate agreements in place in terms of overseas transfers.


Any business willing to engage in remote working overseas will, at the very least, need to be comfortable with the level of risk they are taking and ensure that in addition to compliance with local legislation, appropriate policies and procedures are in place to afford the employing entity as much protection as possible. Ultimately the situation will be complicated by the fact that the rules for each country  are different and what will be permitted in some jurisdictions, will not be permitted in another.  Consider your policy, articulate your policy, stick to your policy.


Article by

Adele Martins, Head of Employment

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