Issues to consider: Key Implications of Working Outside the UK

When employing someone overseas the following obligations must be fulfilled. Each obligation varies depending on the country, the role, the University’s status and activity in the country and the individual’s circumstances. As a result, each overseas working project is different and requires specialist advice (internally, and sometimes externally) in order to assess its implications and associated risks and costs.

Not complying with international employment regulations could result in significant risks for both the individual and the University (business, financial, reputational, and in some cases, custodial).


Duty of Care

As an employer, we have an obligation to know where our employees are located when they are working as part of their employment contract with us This is in order to protect our workforce and be able to act in case of any security, health and safety, or compliance issue. Managers should ensure that they know where their team members are located and inform HR of any overseas working situations within their area using the Global Mobility Initiation Form.


As in the UK, there are potential severe penalties for employers who employ migrant workers without the right to work. All new UK-based employees are required to provide evidence of their right to work in the UK before commencing their employment and we should be applying the same employment standards to employment based outside the UK: employment should not commence until HR has received satisfactory documentary evidence that the individual has the right to work for the University of Exeter in a given country.

Employment Law

The University must ensure that all legislative requirements are considered and appropriate advice taken where necessary, before any commitment is given, or any terms are negotiated with the employee. Advice should be sought during the planning stage to ensure consideration is given to contractual, tax, social security and other benefits issues and that any associated costs can be budgeted for.

Working overseas may result in the modification of the terms and conditions of employment with the University on order to comply with the local employment regulations (contract type, hours of work, minimum salary, annual leave, statutory insurances, pension, other staff benefits).

It is important to note that the University may not be able to employ staff in some countries

Tax, Social Security and Payroll Obligations

The normal expectation is that tax and social security is paid in the country where an individual is living and working. This principle often results in a tax withholding obligation for the employer, which requires the setup of a foreign payroll arrangement. The process can take between 6 to 12 months depending on the country. There can be significant penalties levied on an employer if they do not pay payroll taxes on time. It could also jeopardise the University’s status as a foreign employer in countries where this registration has already been achieved or make it difficult to secure this registration in the future.

Corporate Tax

In some countries, having remote workers, even temporarily or working from a personal home address, may create a Permanent Establishment in the country. This would make the University liable for corporate tax filing and payment in the country. The risk of Permanent Establishment is assessed through the examination of many criteria which differ between countries (number of employees in the country, nature of the activity, work location, local specificities, physical premises, decision makers, recurrence of activity, commercial activity etc.).


Each case of overseas working is a significant investment. To protect the University and its employees, external professional advice is required to comply with immigration, tax, social security and employment law in the host country and there are recurrent costs of running an overseas payroll. In addition, in many countries, employer social security costs are higher than the UK.