Online grocer Ocado have announced that they will be allowing staff to work remotely from any overseas location of choice for one month each year. This bid comes as employers start to re-think their ways of working and how these may change post pandemic.
According to Ocado’s Chief People Officer, over the past year, a high number of employees have been asking to work remotely from abroad. The company hopes that its new offer will give staff members a chance to spend time with their families who are based overseas for example, without needing to use up annual leave.
At Clarkslegal we are seeing several clients also starting to explore similar international remote working offerings for their employees. This is not surprising; for many, different forms of hybrid working are here to stay, and many employers are realising that hybrid working makes for a highly sought-after Employee Value Proposition.
Being able to offer employees the chance to work from a location of their choice for one month a year, especially where employees have asked for this, is a great way for employers to show they are listening to their employees and that they care.
Over and above this, propositions such as these are a great way to keep staff engaged and productive, in-turn aiding retention. As many employers know, the ability to retain talent is hugely cost-saving.
Legally however, the proposal is more complex than simply implementing a new policy. Employers should be aware of the fact that many foreign jurisdiction’s mandatory rules/statutory laws cannot be avoided when an employee works there, even if just for a limited period, and despite any ‘choice of law’ clauses set out in the employees’ contracts.
This means that ‘choice of UK law’ clauses will likely not prejudice certain mandatory rights existing in the foreign jurisdiction (rights which may be more favourable to the employee than those afforded to the employee whilst working in the UK).
These could include higher minimum rates of pay and greater rights on termination. Where an employer’s employees work from a number of different international locations, the employer could end up with a somewhat tiered workforce, with certain remote working employees having greater employment rights than those solely working within the UK, or within jurisdictions with lesser rights.
Employers wishing to implement an offering similar to Ocado would therefore be well advised to seek employment law advice within the applicable foreign jurisdictions before allowing employees to work abroad, to find out exactly what rights the employees would acquire.
Other legal issues employers should consider for employees working abroad include:
- Discrimination where an inconsistent approach is taken to the application of the offering. Employees and prospective employees should be treated consistently and fairly. Where an employer does not allow remote working from certain jurisdictions, there must be justifiable business reasons for this.
- Immigration law implications. Considering whether the employees would be entitled to work in the foreign jurisdictions, even if just for a limited period and whether any immigration issues may arise on their return to the UK. If the employee is not a UK national for example, a prolonged absence from the UK may affect their immigration status or right to work in the UK.
- Tax and social security implications will need to be considered too.
Remote working from abroad is an exciting proposition which is possible and can really make an employer stand out from its competitors in the job market. However, thorough legal preparation is needed to ensure there are no nasty surprises for employers down the line. Clarkslegal are part of TAGLaw, a global network of lawyers, and are well placed to assist with this sort of advice. Contact our employment lawyers for further information.