Nearly two years have passed since nations began closing their borders to control the spread of COVID-19 among their local populations. Working remotely in foreign countries made it easier for many employees to take care of families, home-school their children, and be with faraway relatives. Now, what may have initially been an experiment or stopgap measure has become the preferred work-life existence for these expat workers.
But making a temporary international remote work arrangement a permanent situation poses legal consequences affecting compensation, income taxes, job benefits, and healthcare. Multinational workers and their employers need to know their rights and responsibilities, which can be difficult without knowing if the host countries' or home countries' laws apply to their employment relationships.
Outten and Golden partner Wendi Lazar and associate Cody Yorke routinely counsel clients on expatriate employment issues. Reuters Legal News recently published an article in which they discuss the issues remote workers and employers should consider when contemplating remote work abroad.
"COVID-19's New Expatriate Employees" discusses a range of legal considerations expat employees and the companies that employ them must address to ensure an international remote working arrangement is fair and free of surprises for both sides. For example, many foreign countries have just-cause termination, family and medical leave, and workers compensation laws that favor the employee. Conversely, U.S. citizens working abroad may encounter compensation adjustments, increased taxes, and special tribunals to resolve employment-related disputes, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and whistleblower protection.
As the article points out, the duration of the pandemic-motivated wave of international relocation is uncertain:
The pandemic has created a new category of remote international employee in the U.S., and it is anyone's guess if it will be short-lived or here to stay. For now, many of these employees are still subject to internal company rules, protections and policies to address their situation, but as companies return to the office, tolerance for remote employees may wane.
Wendi co-heads the Executives and Professionals Practice Group, of which Cody is a member. They advise clients and attorneys in the U.S. and abroad on employment, contract, and related immigration issues.