Vital compliance risks of international remote working – The HR Director Magazine

As interest in international remote working increases, there are key compliance issues to consider concerning social security liabilities, right to work and data security which HR professionals need to be aware of. Procedures are made even more difficult in the present environment, where travel is often disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, putting an employee’s ability to work at risk.

Here are the key compliance risks HR and global mobility experts should consider in preparation for the resumption of international business travel, and while virtual workings remains a popular choice amongst both employees and companies.

Does the employee have the right to work?
Before a company considers utilising international remote working arrangements, such as virtual assignments, the employee’s right to work is likely to be the area that attracts the most scrutiny.

If an assignee based in Singapore decides to move to Thailand for a short, medium or long period of time and continues to perform their services while based there, a crucial question for the employee and employer will be – does the employee have the right to be in Thailand and work from there?

While there are multiple immigration options for the employee, ranging from entering Thailand on a standard tourist visa through to more long-term solutions such as residence permission, many of these options will not permit work status. Therefore, it is vital that visa restrictions around working rights are considered by both the employee and employer, before overseas remote working can be granted or approved.

Due to these implications, it was revealed in our recent Managing Mobility Survey, that almost two thirds of companies only allow an employee to undertake a virtual assignment from a country where they have the right to work.

Which employment legislation will apply?
An additional concern is which labour laws will apply to the employee while working remotely. In the case of long-term assignments, this tends to be straightforward in that the employee and employer must act in compliance with the labour laws of the assignee country. However, what will happen when the employee is assigned to work for a company in Norway but remains physically in the UAE? Which country’s labour law will apply to the employee then?

If in the above case the employee enters into an employment contract with the Norway company, the terms and conditions in the employment contract will be the same as those provided to other locally recruited staff in Norway. However, as the employee is physically located in the UAE, UAE labour law may take precedent and be applied in areas regarding mandatory provisions such as leave and termination.

Any company seeking to utilise international remote working should consult employment law specialists in the locations where they expect their workers to be based.

Data security
An area which is often overlooked but is of significant importance when considering employees remote working is data protection and security. A person on a virtual assignment may be based in one country but accessing data, such as employee records and confidential financial information, on a computer network in another country. There may be legislation or contracts between companies and their clients which prevent this from happening. Common inclusions in commercial contracts are clauses prohibiting one party from transferring data in relation to their commercial relationship to its operations and employees based in other countries.

There is also government legislation to consider. For example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides legislation regarding personal information and what companies need to do to maintain the security of such information, including accessing it.

Many countries have their own legislation regarding the storage of personal data and will levy punishments, including fines, in the event of a breach, with the EU’s presently the most severe. This means that companies will need to take measures to ensure that when their staff are accessing their networks from other countries, they are doing so securely.

As virtual assignments will be most companies’ preferred mode of international remote working, as freedom of movement internationally is still restricted, HR staff will need to ensure policies encompass both the company’s and employee’s respective roles, responsibilities and liabilities regarding immigration rights, safety, and even data security.

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