Currently it is a requirement of virtually all staff under a University employment contract to work at the University, here in Bath and in the UK.
We recognise that during the COVID pandemic, some of our international and UK staff have experienced situations where they may have become temporarily unable to return to or enter the UK and have had to consider working temporarily from outside of the UK.
While wanting to allow our Heads of Department and those reporting to them to support their staff and enable them to work from overseas where there is no alternative and it is possible, there are very significant risks - both financial and immigration-related - that need to be fully understood first. These costs and risks inevitably fall on the departments and must be fully considered, funded and authorised before any decision to agree such an overseas working arrangement is made. The University has set up the Overseas Working Group to advise and assist Heads of Department and the University on these complex matters.
A. Tax and Social Security Issues
There may be additional tax and social security issues for staff leading to very significant additional costs if they are working for the University from outside the UK. While a 183-day grace period may apply in a number of countries during the COVID pandemic, it does not apply in all and the rules governing these arrangements are complex and vary greatly from country to country (even from one EU country to another).
The costs of specialist tax and social security advice, creating an overseas payroll and additional tax and social security contributions will fall on the budget of the employing department. These costs may vary from a minimum of around £9,000 of additional cost up to over £50,000. If a permanent establishment is created in the country where the staff member is working, then the costs can be even greater than this and ongoing. A number of universities have fallen into this situation without identifying it until too late, incurring in some cases millions of pounds of costs.
B. Immigration / Right to Work Issues
There may also be significant immigration issues if the international staff member employed by the University is working overseas. While initial interim arrangements have been put in place by the Home Office / UKVI and extended during the COVID pandemic, this does not automatically protect our staff. Working overseas, even for a short period, may negatively affect the visa or in some cases invalidate their right to work in the UK altogether for some international staff. Therefore, it is essential that the impact on the staff member's immigration status is fully considered before a request to work overseas is agreed by the University.
The Responsibility of the Head of Department:
It is the responsibility of the Head of Department ("HoD") to do the following:
1. Seek and receive advice via their HR Business Partner or Advisor on any member of staff (new or existing) who has requested to work overseas for any period. To assist this please ask the member if staff to complete the overseas working short questionnaire and provide this to your HR Business Partner or Advisor. The HR Business Partner or Advisor will access specialist advice from the University's Overseas Working Group and Staff Immigration team on the risks and costs of A. and B. set out above. From this a risk cost of the request and any immigration risks will be identified.
2 Identify and authorise funding and then request an overseas working arrangement is put in place - The HoD will need to identify and secure the funding for this additional cost from their budgets and authorise its use for this cost. They will then need to complete an Overseas Working Request Form with advice and support from their HR Business Partner or Advisor. This request will then be considered by the Overseas Working Group and the decision on approving or rejecting the request will be confirmed.
3. Action the request if approved - where the request is approved the HoD will need to confirm the arrangements to the staff member concerned with advice and support from HR, where required, which include a variation to contract for the staff member.
Responsibilities of Staff
It is the responsibility of all University employees (both existing staff and appointees) to inform their line manager and Head of Department if they are in a situation where they cannot return to the UK to work or are requesting to work currently working outside of the UK. They must request agreement to work overseas for a temporary / fixed period before they commence working in this way. Overseas working will require specific agreement from the University and a variation to contract before they are able to undertake it.
Responsibilities of the Overseas Working Group
It is the responsibility of the Overseas Working Group ("OWG") to advise the University, Heads of Department, managers and staff about the risks and costs of working overseas and where and how this arrangement can be legally applied, taking legal and professional advice where required. OWG will consider all requests made by Heads of Department to work overseas.