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HomeEmploymentWhat are the Legal Challenges to Relocating Employees Abroad?

What are the Legal Challenges to Relocating Employees Abroad?

Growth is the fundamental aim for businesses, whether start-up enterprises or established brands. Growth can be defined in multiple ways, but one of the major steps a company can take to expand is to move into other geographic territories. There are many challenges to doing this on an executive level, one of which is the issue of staffing – and of moving staff between countries. Why might this be necessary, and what are the challenges inherent to staff relocation?

Why Relocate Staff Abroad?

A truly international business will have regional headquarters in different parts of the world, whether to co-ordinate efforts across borders or to offer new and different products to new and emerging markets. Employee relocation can be useful between these branches or headquarters for numerous reasons:

  • employee skills and experience might be better placed in a location that is underperforming;
  • the opening of a new branch or regional headquarters might require a core team to oversee initial set-up and growth;
  • shuffling employees around according to talents and experience might mutually benefit the growth of the business as a whole.

Relocating staff is also a beneficial move over hiring, as internal experience and knowledge can take time and money to build. However, global mobility can be a complex undertaking to manage, not in the least with regard to legality.

Relocation and Employee Rights

A primary concern here comes not in the logistics of relocating employees, but in the form of employee rights. Contractually speaking, employees may be protected from ‘unreasonable’ changes to their employment, with relocation a key example of this. Any relocation needs to be voluntary, not just contractually speaking but also for the health of the employee and the business; as such, a package of benefits and accommodations should be put together to incentivise employee moves – and to prevent challenges against them.

Immigration Law

Crucially, employee relocation requires close engagement with immigration law. Each country will have its own laws to which you must be beholden, particularly with regard to the matter of visas. Not only will some countries require individual applications for work visas from each employee, but others will also have stringent criteria that applicants must meet, and which could render certain moves much more difficult.

Remote Contracts and Digital Nomadism

There is another side to the employee relocation coin, too; what if an employee wishes to work abroad? Where a business has regional presence and infrastructure, a secondment could be organised under contract, or the move treated essentially the same as a business-mandated relocation. However, there are different considerations for if no such infrastructure exists.

A newly-common iteration of this is the ‘digital nomad’ phenomenon. Digital nomads are contracted workers or freelancers that conduct their work remotely, and travel widely. Where an employee’s role can be completed remotely, the opportunity to work abroad becomes more feasible – and the possibility of a remote work request higher. But there are tax implications for working abroad, which can make the situation a risky one for businesses that have not already explored these implications.

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