Global, or mobile, workforces are not new. Long before COVID-19 and the “work-from-anywhere” trend, companies leveraged their internal pools of experienced talent to achieve growth, share expertise, integrate new acquisitions and promote career development, through temporary international work assignments and transfers of employees between global subsidiaries and affiliates.
Today, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are working from anywhere. Companies are challenged to rethink their operating model when it comes to collaboration and working, to both maintain their attractiveness to prospective talent and provide the flexibility demanded by existing employees. This trend, coupled with the increasing digitization of tax and payroll compliance, has added a new dimension of complexity – and risk.
While some companies are using the increase in homeworking as a recruitment tool, finding staff or executives from abroad while these individuals still partly work from home, others, may not even know when their employees are working from abroad. In any case, the company must know where their employees are working from to ensure compliance with local regimes on payroll, tax, immigration, labor law and social security, and compliance with sector-related regulations, such as in financial services, where sales and marketing may be restricted. The tax implications of long-term incentive programs, multi-country payroll reporting, withholding tax obligations, and employment tax relating to restructuring or M&A transactions must also be considered.
The board’s role is to weigh the benefits of workforce flexibility with the risks, ensure the company’s global/mobile working policy is in alignment with the company’s strategy and risk appetite, and to ensure there’s an appropriate process and policy in place.
While there is no specific legislation pertaining to “working from anywhere”, there are the applicable double tax treaties, which are concluded between Belgium and the relevant country, and the EU social security regulation (Regulation (EC) for social security no 883/2004). In addition, local regulatory environments each have their own rules and regulations, which might be applicable.
- Do we have a policy in place for global/mobile working? Is this policy in line with our corporate goals?
- How is compliance with this policy, and the associated risks, being monitored?
- Do we have a comprehensive understanding of where our employees are and what activities they are performing?
- Do we have any outstanding tax and local hosting country compliance issues, which may cause us problems in the future?
- Do we have an integrated tax, technology, immigration and mobile administration services?
- Do we have a global mobility service addressing short- and long-term business travel risks, payroll and host country compliance?
- Which countries, where we have expansion plans, are tightening their immigration policies, which may cause a delay in implementing our strategy?
- Do we have business continuity plans in place if we need to repatriate people quickly?
- Ensure the risks of a global workforce are appropriately included in your risk assessment.
- Consider whether a “work from anywhere” policy should apply broadly, or to certain levels, by weighing the risks vs. the benefits of a global workforce against the company’s needs and strategy.
- Ensure that management has created a global/mobile working policy in line with the company’s strategy and culture.
About the Board Leadership Center
KPMG’s Board Leadership Center (BLC) offers non-executive and executive board members – and those working closely with them – a place within a community of board-level peers. Through an array of insights, perspectives and events – including topical seminars and more technical Board Academy sessions – the BLC promotes continuous education around the critical issues driving board agendas.