External Forces and Trends

Post Meeting Notes: Business Ramifications of a Globally Dispersed Employee Population

  • March 27, 2023

One paradox of the Covid pandemic, which saw greater localisation of previously global
supply chains, is that it also appears to have increased the international dispersion of
companies’ workforces. The pandemic encouraged organisations to embrace the available
technology which enabled greater numbers of people to work remotely. The replacement
of office-based working and face-to-face meetings by online working happened at a speed
that surprised even the technology’s most enthusiastic advocates.

While there will inevitably be some return to office-based working, the idea that some roles can be performed just as effectively from more remote locations has taken root. This presents both opportunities and difficulties for employers. Technology has made it easier for companies to draw on a geographically dispersed talent pool. Widening the source of hard-to-find skills for niche roles may become a significant advantage. It may also boost flexibility and resilience in the face of political, social and environmental shocks. However, attractive as these arrangements may seem, they carry legal, regulatory, and logistical challenges. The advantages must be set against the potential loss of control and increased risks for the employer.

  • Protection of intellectual property, and control over key assets such as employee and client base – which might work in a single jurisdiction via contractual obligations and restrictive covenants – will become more difficult to enforce across diverse legal jurisdictions.
  • Cross border arrangements bring regulatory and tax compliance challenges, especially where a company has no formal legal entity in a country. This is further complicated by the phenomenon of the ‘stealth expat’ – where employees move countries without going through the company’s formal assignment process.

With the remote working genie now out of the bottle, these questions demand a new set of rules and procedures. As cross border working becomes physically (if not legally) easier, more employees will ask to do it and more companies will seek to use it to access talent pools or reduce costs. In this session, in partnership with Eversheds Sutherland, we examined the business imperatives of business protection and regulatory compliance, focusing on practical tools, including technology, needed to manage the implications of a globally dispersed workforce, including:

  • Compliance with tax, immigration and employment law requirements;
  • Protection of intellectual property;
  • Use of restrictive covenants;
  • Contracts of employment;
  • Auditing and managing the inherent risks.

Watch the event recording below. Alternatively, catch up with the Post Meeting Notes for a comprehensive summary.

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