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Remote working from home and sponsored workers

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With government advice to work from home, followed by exhortations to return to our workplaces, with a quick U-turn and a repeat of the recommendation to work from home it isn’t surprising that business owners, HR advisors and employees are uncertain about what they should do for the best. As immigration solicitors specialising in sponsor licences we are being asked by both employers and employees if sponsored workers on Tier 2 (General) visas can return overseas to work remotely from ‘home’ so that they can get the support of their friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this blog we look at Tier 2 and working from home for sponsored workers.

UK business immigration and Sponsor Licence solicitors

If you have Covid-19 related business, Immigration and employment law questions our specialist team of business immigration solicitors can help you whether you are a business owner, employee or trying to manage your HR department. Call the immigration lawyers at London based OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.

Can a sponsored employee work remotely from overseas?

In a digital age many of us can work remotely on a laptop or smart phone from anywhere in the world without our clients being aware that we aren’t sat at our desk in the office, provided of course that our internet connection is up to speed.

It is natural that if employees have been told that they should work remotely from home for potentially the next six months that sponsored workers employed by firms on Tier 2 (General) visas are questioning whether they can return to their home country and work remotely from there. After all many other countries have far lower rates of infection than the UK as well as excellent broadband facilities, meaning that it would potentially be safer and more efficient for sponsored workers to work in their home country.

Whilst the Home Office relaxed some Sponsor Licence reporting rules relating to sponsored workers because of the Covid-19 pandemic remote working solicitors say that sponsored workers risk their Tier 2 (General) visa Immigration status if they return overseas to work and likewise employers could risk their Sponsor Licence if they don’t fully comply with their Sponsor Licence reporting and recording duties.

It is of course a question of degree as a sponsored worker may return to their home country and undertake some work but that is a different scenario to an employer agreeing to what could be an extended period of overseas remote working.

In addition, any sponsored worker needs to be careful about how long they spend overseas if they plan to apply to settle in the UK through securing Indefinite Leave to Remain. That is because the eligibility criteria for an Indefinite Leave to Remain application includes a residence requirement. Whilst overseas workers can spend time abroad there are limits. The Home Office can waive the rules in cases where there are exceptional circumstances, such as Covid-19 travel restrictions. That is of course different to the scenario where a sponsored worker returns to their home country to work remotely as a matter of personal preference rather than staying in their accommodation in the UK.

Other considerations for sponsored workers carrying out work remotely from overseas

Employment law and sponsor licence solicitors say that it isn’t just Sponsor Licence and Immigration status issues that can affect an employer and an employee’s decisions on overseas remote working. There are additional considerations, such as:

  • Employment rights – if an employee works remotely from an overseas country they may be able to claim the Employment rights of a worker in the overseas country depending on the overseas legislation. That could mean that an employee could inadvertently gain additional employment law rights
  • Health and safety – if an employee is working remotely an employer still has health and safety obligations to its employee. That is because a UK employer has a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of all its employees and to take reasonable steps to provide a safe workplace. That duty extends to sponsored workers who are overseas working remotely. It may be harder for an employer to conduct a Covid-19 related risk assessment and monitor any health and safety issues or provide support if the worker is based overseas for any long period of time. There may also be local health and safety laws that apply in the overseas country that a UK employer must comply with in relation to an employee working there remotely. Local health and safety legislation may exceed the employer’s UK health and safety obligations
  • Data protection –>employees are working remotely. Concerns may be increased if a sponsored worker is working overseas with transfer of data abroad and additional concerns about hacking and data security through remote access
  • Taxation and tax status –it may be not just the sponsored worker’s Immigration status that could be adversely affected but also their tax status through working remotely overseas. Remote working overseas could result in the sponsored worker being treated as tax resident in the UK and in the overseas country from where they are working remotely leading to unexpected tax complications.

Immigration and employment law solicitors don’t rule out some remote working for sponsored workers but emphasise that legal advice should be taken to ensure that overseas remote working doesn’t have any unforeseen consequences for either the employer or the employed sponsored worker.

How can OTS Solicitors help?

Whether you are a business owner, HR advisor or an employee working in the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa it is best to take expert legal advice on remote working overseas and the implications for your business or for you as an individual. The specialist Immigration and employment law team have substantial experience in applying for and managing sponsor licences as well as securing work visas and answering work visa related enquiries.

UK business immigration and Sponsor Licence solicitors

OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration and employment law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession.

For specialist immigration and employment law advice that you can trust, call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.

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