Are workcations the future of remote working?by
The term ‘workcation’ is sweeping through the inboxes of managers across the country as more employees are requesting a vacation that allows them to work remotely, whilst integrating elements of leisure into their post-work free time.
It’s no secret that the way that we work has changed forever, with many corporate and office workers firmly settled into their new hybrid, or work-from-home routines. Whilst most employees are content to work from their kitchens or home offices, a new trend has been gathering pace.
What is a workcation?
A ‘workcation’ is flexible working on a whole new level, turning work from home into work from anywhere. But, with this new approach to flexible working, what considerations do employers and employees need to take into account, if workcations are to work for businesses?
Whilst the future of workcationing looks bright for employees, it is crucial that businesses do not rush into this process before they properly understand the risks
Enquiries into workcations have risen significantly since the end of the pandemic, with many work-from-home employees seeking to utilise their newfound flexibility to combine their working lives with their desire to travel. Workcations offer obvious benefits to employees, as they don’t have to use up their holiday to go and visit family or friends who may live abroad, and they are able to travel without having to take unpaid leave, a sabbatical or even a career break.
Tax and data protection considerations
However, whilst the future of workcationing looks bright for employees, it is crucial that businesses do not rush into this process before they properly understand the risks. The main challenge around an employee taking a workcation is tax and making sure that they are not creating extra administrative and payroll obligations for their employer, by having a place of work in an overseas jurisdiction which is deemed a ‘permanent establishment’ for payroll purposes.
Each country has its own laws regarding tax and obligations for the employer, and it is vital to take advice to understand the tax position of an employee’s preferred destination, how the length of time that the employee will be in that country affects it and what the employer may be liable for. It is also important to consider the employment terms of the country that has been selected, as some, such as France or Spain, have better terms for employees when it comes to holiday entitlement, notice pay or redundancy, which must be taken into account even if the employee is to remain employed under a UK employment contract.
Another consideration for employers to think about when discussing workcations is data security. An employee who works abroad is still subject to GDPR and data protection laws, and therefore is still obliged to keep all data secure and to process such data correctly.
When considering data security for overseas workers, it is also vital for companies to put policies in place, such as ensuring that the employee uses a protected internet connection rather than working from an internet café or on public WiFi, which may open a firm up to the risk of security breaches.
It is also important for employers to fully understand any and all local laws before an employee is allowed to take up a workcation opportunity and how this impacts the proposed arrangement and where the work is to be carried out.
To mitigate any potential risks, employers should build an element of flexibility into any workcation contract to retain control over the process
How can workcations work in practice?
It will take a certain amount of trust between an employer and their workcationing employee if the arrangement is to be a success, however, due to the widespread adoption of homeworking, there are many ways that employers can be confident that their employees are meeting the required standards.
Apps that track hours worked are an easy way to monitor an employee’s progress and workload, as well as the installation of IT programmes that can monitor computer activity, tracking when it is idle for longer than a set period of time. To mitigate any potential risks, employers should build an element of flexibility into any workcation contract so that they are able to end the arrangement if it isn’t working and retain control over the process.
As it currently stands, there is an onus on businesses to do a lot of the leg work in terms of HR and payroll when an employee requests a workcation. For many organisations, their HR departments are already busy, and this additional administrative burden will not be welcome. Until the workcation process becomes more bedded in, any employee looking to take advantage of this way of working would be well advised to do their research, gather the relevant information and make the process as smooth as possible when they start a dialogue with their employer.
Are workcations the future of remote working?
Ultimately, it is unlikely that workcation arrangements will become truly commonplace, as there are only certain sections of the workforce that can take advantage of them. However, those employers who are able to offer workcations may well become more accepting of the practice, particularly as it can be used to incentivise top talent to take up jobs when utilised as a part of the recruitment process, helping the company to stand out in the jobs marketplace.
Businesses must assess these requests on a case-by-case basis and seek local advice from the jurisdiction of the country that the employee wishes to work from
It must not be forgotten that workers in the UK – and abroad – have recently undergone a huge change in their working lives. For many, the traditional nine to five in an office is gone for good, and therefore it seems likely that requests for workcations will only increase where it is possible to do so.
However, businesses must assess these requests on a case-by-case basis and seek local advice from the jurisdiction of the country that the employee wishes to work from to ensure that all the risks and associated implications of the arrangement are fully understood and addressed before the workcation goes ahead.
Where that is done and the arrangement is suitable for both the employer and employee, it then just needs to be carefully documented, with clear guidelines set out as to what is required and how the arrangement can be ended, should the employer decide it is no longer appropriate.
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