Running a global, remote-based organisation carries a raft of HR compliance challenges and you are probably wondering how to be remote compliant in 2022.
Everywhere you employ people, you have an obligation to protect these team members, uphold their legal rights, and create safe and supportive working environments in which they can thrive.
But fear not! We’ve come up with a simple guide to help you meet these challenges head-on and establish yourself as a leading, people-first employer.
This is the third year we are running such a primer and this is the most updated version of the ten most essential steps on the road to becoming an HR-compliant remote organisation in 2022.
1. Get your head around local employment laws
Every territory has employment laws covering hiring regulations, days off, sick days, minimum wage and termination stipulations. These laws outline your obligations as an employer and protect your employees’ rights.
Given that most businesses don’t want to break the law or be taken to court by their employees, there can be no compromises in complying with them. It’s particularly evident if you’re attempting to end an employee’s employment. In many countries, strict processes have to be followed to the letter before a termination can be considered.
Even if you were on top of employment laws in 2021, there are many things that have changed since the start of the year. Some examples
In Ireland, the weekly income threshold for the higher rate of employer’s PRSI has increased by €12 to €410, while parental leave will be increasing from 5 to 7 weeks from July
Portugal has introduced a considerable amount of changes to teleworking legislation, including new provisions for health and safety, right to disconnect and more direct ban on employee monitoring
Sweden has introduced a new expanded whistleblowing legislation. It will have an extended coverage to protect contractors, volunteers, interns, individuals who are part of the company’s administrative, management or supervisory bodies and shareholders who are active in the company. Companies with 50 or more employees will also have to establish internal reporting channels and procedures for reporting and follow-up at the start of each year. This legislation is based on EU-wide directives, which soon will be required for all member states
2. To be remote compliant in 2022, classify workers correctly – with no corner-cutting
Businesses are under more pressure than ever to expand quickly, enter new markets, and access the best talent. Consequently, many organisations end up cutting corners in how they employ people, hiring long-term independent contractors because it’s easier than taking on salaried employees.
Whichever way you look at it, this is a bad idea. For starters, it’s illegal in many countries. In France, a company director could face a personal fine of 45,000 EUR and up to three years’ imprisonment for a breach. In Germany, a company that has deliberately misclassified its workers could be fined 500,000 EUR.
It’s also fundamentally unfair to deny full-time workers their employment rights. People-first organisations just don’t behave like this.
Yes, it can be complicated trying to comply with every local employment rule and regulation – but it’s necessary, and it’s the right thing to do. Besides, with Boundless, we can take the burden off your hands and get your worker classification in order without any of the usual headaches so you can be remote compliant in 2022.
Not sure if your employees are classified correctly?
An employment contract should outline everything an employee does, including specific details of the working environment, expectations, and job regulations. If it doesn’t do this, it could be deemed void, meaning that the employee is working illegally.
Every country has specific rules on what must be included in an employment agreement, adding to the compliance challenge. If a team member is now working 100% remotely in a new territory, their contract needs to be updated accordingly with their new work location. This is much easier to do in some countries than in others. In Portugal, for example, an additional agreement will need to be drawn up and renewed every three years. As mentioned previously, there is a host of new legislation that’s come in for teleworking agreements in Portugal.
In addition, other job description details – such as performance, reporting requirements or working hours – could also change if an employee shifts to flexible or remote-based working. Again, you’ll need to update the employment contract to reflect these changes and stay fully compliant.
4. Stay on top of local tax obligations
Employees need to be registered to a specific location to pay taxes. This is true even when people are 100% remote workers.
Being a compliant global employer means adhering to all local tax regulations wherever you have employees. Unfortunately, these taxes are different in every country – sometimes even from state to state. They can also get very niche. For example, in addition to income tax and social security, employers in Denmark should expect to pay taxes to the church. In Portugal, higher earners will be subject to the progressive solidarity tax.
Geography isn’t the only tax consideration either. Different types of work fall under different tax regulations – based on industry, product/service type, hours worked, and many other criteria.
You can’t really afford to get tax wrong, or you’ll put your employees in a terrible mess. You could even be charged with tax evasion or fraud – which isn’t a good look for anyone.
5. Protect everyone against all forms of discrimination at work
Protecting against workplace discrimination is a legal obligation wherever you operate. Typical anti-discrimination laws encompass race, skin colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital or relationship status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin, gender identity, intersex status or trade union membership.
It’s a long list that sends a clear message to employers, and the business world has made great strides over the past few years in addressing discrimination. However, the shift towards more remote working can make spotting these issues that bit harder. As a result, employers need to put in place robust reporting processes and clearly communicate them to the whole workforce.
Not only that, but remote working can be a discriminatory issue in its own right. Employers need to ensure that their flexible working policies are administered fairly and equally, and that remote workers are given the same rights and career opportunities as their office-based colleagues.
6. To be remote compliant in 2022, take health and safety a priority in every location
Every country has occupational health and safety rules dictating what a healthy workplace looks like and, of course, furniture, environment and desk ergonomics affect home-office workers just as much as those working at corporate HQ. In countries such as Australia and the Netherlands, the legal emphasis is squarely on employers to minimise the risk of physical accidents and psychological trauma, irrespective of where employees are based.
Looking beyond physical safety, the pandemic has also thrust the issue of employee burnout into the spotlight. Sweden is one of a handful of territories where burnout is now formally acknowledged as an occupational health concern, along with Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia. If you have salaried employees in these countries, you must ensure your health and safety policies reflect local regulations and cover all government-mandated employer responsibilities.
7. Step up your information security for remote workers
Keeping the corporate network secure isn’t easy in the age of dispersed remote teams. But that doesn’t mean you should raise the white flag and accept the inevitability of hacker intrusion. Most data breaches can be avoided by giving your remote employees better-secured technology, and clear instructions on how to behave safely online.
From a compliance perspective, maintaining information security is essential. Data breaches carry sizeable financial penalties, particularly in countries governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In some sectors, such as healthcare or financial services, IT security standards, privacy, confidentiality and data breach regulations are even more stringent.
At a minimum, your remote employees need to be using a VPN connection when connecting to unsecured networks. You also need to have clear IT usage policies in place – regarding who can access what, how and where – and it’s worth running regular training and refresher sessions so that employees don’t become less vigilant over time.
8. Get serious about time tracking
No one enjoys time tracking, but it’s a legal requirement in many countries. As a result, employers have little choice but to make sure their teams keep accurate records of their working hours, their time off, and leave taken.
Time tracking is especially important for remote employees – to monitor overtime and, where appropriate, pay them accordingly. It also helps prevent people from working beyond the maximum statutory hours, avoiding the possibility of legal repercussions.
In countries such as New Zealand and the Netherlands, there are hefty fines for lax time tracking, so it’s important to maintain good behaviours across the entire workforce. Some jurisdictions will even carry out workplace inspections and insist on seeing employers’ records for office- and home-based employees. There is an EU directive about time tracking, which while still not mandatory for member states, will eventually be mandated and this is as good a time to start adhering to it en route to becoming remote compliant in 2022.
9. Give everyone a break and consider the right to disconnect
Getting up from our desks to take a breather is helpful for both physical and mental wellbeing, which is why most countries give employees the right to take breaks over the course of their working day, including the provision of a lunch hour. The situation is no different for remote employees, and it’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that remote team members are afforded the same time away from their desks as office-based workers stepping out to lunch.
Furthermore, in our digitally-enabled, ‘always on’ culture, it’s easy for professional communications to spill over into employees’ personal time. France was the first country to formally recognise this problem, creating ‘right to disconnect’ legislation in 2016 that explicitly outlined when employers were/weren’t allowed to contact their team members. This legislation has been adopted by the likes of Italy, Spain, Chile and Argentina, while Portugal recently went a step further, making it illegal for employers to contact workers outside of their agreed working hours.
You won’t find ‘right to disconnect’ legislation everywhere but, given the logistical challenges of upholding this legislation, it may make sense just to create a blanket, all-encompassing ‘right to disconnect’ policy across the entire organisation. It’ll certainly endear you to your employees.
Confused which of your employees are protected by a right to disconnect?
10. Stay in line with local benefits regulations and norms
Every country has its own philosophy and approach towards employee benefits. Some will be delivered by the government; others will be mandated for employers to provide. For example, while providing employer contributions to a pension scheme is mandatory in the UK and Australia, in Ireland, employers of more than five people only have to offer access to a scheme rather than contributing to it.
There will also be cultural norms and expectations around benefits. In the US, providing a decent health insurance package is a prerequisite of hiring and retaining top talent. In many southern European countries, it’s common for organisations to top up their employees’ income with an extra payment in July (to pay for a summer holiday) and another in December (to cover Christmas).
Finally, tax on benefits in kind – i.e. non-cash benefits such as gym membership or company vehicles – will also differ from country to country. It’s a lot for organisations to take in, which is why we’ve created a series of in-depth country guides to give employers a clear picture of what is expected – or indeed, demanded.
A helping hand on the road to compliance
Whatever your circumstances, it pays to be on the front foot when it comes to compliance and be remote compliant in 2022. Your team will thank you for it, and you’ll avoid the risk of nasty legal and reputational problems further down the line.
At Boundless, we’re here to support you on your compliance journey, providing the tools and local knowledge you need to compliantly employ people, wherever you operate.
Through our Employer of Record model, we help global employers go beyond the basics and adopt best-practice employment principles wherever they operate. So if you want to start the New Year with a renewed compliance push, get in touch with us today.
The making available of information to you on this site by Boundless shall not create a legal, confidential or other relationship between you and Boundless and does not constitute the provision of legal, tax, commercial or other professional advice by Boundless. You acknowledge and agree that any information on this site has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind, may not be suitable for use in your business, and does not constitute advice intended for reliance. You assume all risk and liability that may result from any such reliance on the information and you should seek independent advice from a lawyer or tax professional in the relevant jurisdiction(s) before doing so.
Written by Irina Dzhambazova
Irina Dzhambazova is the editor of this publication and leads many of the marketing efforts behind Boundless. Previously she crafted stories at SaaStock and Dublin Globe and travelled the world capturing case studies of companies using the Kanban Method. Throughout this experience, she was almost always "the remote worker" and knows a thing or two about the potential and challenges of this way of working.
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