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Remote Working - Enabling your Global Workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that working remotely at scale is achievable, and for many employees, desirable on a full time and sustained basis. Across the globe, workers across various industries had to switch to remote working within a few days. Even companies and employees that were initially resistant to the concept of remote working have been forced to embrace the culture. A recent PwC Survey highlighted 84% of employees feel able to perform their role just as effectively when working remotely as they would in the office and 42% of companies are allowing assignments to start via remote working from the home country.

 

Now as lockdown and travel restrictions ease, how will this experience of remote working affect willingness to return to the office? Organisations may need to embrace remote working as here to stay, but what does this mean when the “work anywhere” concept involves a cross border dimension?  

Enabling a global remote workforce

Initially the focus has been on those stranded by COVID-19, but we have seen three main groups for remote working:

  1. Working from home in the same country as the place of legal employment - this is the ‘norm’ now and is likely to be supported under current ‘flexible working’ arrangements/policies
  2. Working from home in a different country to your legal employment (and/or place of secondment) - COVID-19 has meant that individuals who have been displaced have no choice but to do this
  3. Starting an international assignment that was due to go ahead from the home country - as COVID-19 has prevented the individual being able to physically travel to the host country.

As physical borders reopen, organisations will need to consider whether they want to support employees requesting to maintain their remote working arrangement and any new requests going forward. 

We are seeing many companies reviewing how they will implement new ways of working to support their global workforce of the future.  Bold public statements have already been made by some of the world’s leading technology companies that remote working is here to stay. Meanwhile many other organisations, particularly those with ‘knowledge workers’ who are more easily able to work remotely in the financial and professional services industries, are working through revising their policies.

But implementation will provide two levels of challenge for organisations. First, around how to attract and retain talent against a new expectation of flexible working while still ensuring business continuity. But it will also create ongoing challenges at a corporate level – in managing the many mobility risks associated with remote working arrangements across employment taxes, corporate taxes, immigration, posted workers, employment law as well as wider considerations on duty of care and performance management. 

Some of the nuances employers will have to work through include:

Immigration considerations: 

  • Employees may not have permission in the country they want to reside in to work / live. Their family may not have rights to live / attend school etc.
  • There may be a potential impact on any permanent residence / citizenship applications if an employee chooses to reside in another country temporarily.  
  • This can have implications for individuals exercising EU treaty rights under Freedom of Movement.
  • The impact of Brexit on future EU immigration could impact remote working arrangements.

Employment tax and social security considerations:

  • An employee who spends some or all of their time working in a location outside their country of employment may become subject to both income tax and social security in their work location.
  • The rules vary significantly when these obligations may be triggered but tracking of working time will be critical in understanding what the exposure will be.
  • For international assignees there is a documented and understood process for managing the payroll requirements but this is not likely to be in place for remote workers who have no formal secondment arrangement and remain under the management and control of their ‘home’ employer.

Our myAtlas tool can help employers understand some of the above implications and compliance obligations early on in the planning stage. Meaning employers and employees can enter into a new working arrangement feeling at ease.

Next Steps

Remote working has numerous benefits for both employers and employees, from increased productivity and a better work-life balance. However, while the benefits are proven to be extensive, there are a lot of considerations to be made before new working arrangements are put in place. 

Employers need to embrace these changes and start reviewing these considerations and updating their policies to include cross-border remote working if they want to retain the talent in their workforce. 

Contact us

Claire Pepper

Claire Pepper

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7525 280693

Sarah Mullen

Sarah Mullen

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7841 788989

Deborah Salmon

Deborah Salmon

Senior Manager, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7525 283175

Olivia Jobson

Olivia Jobson

Manager, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7802 660376

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