The Stack

Why is HR asking where you are at the weekend?

As  restrictions associated with COVID-19 ease, people’s movement between countries within Europe will become easier. The same is not the case for UK headquartered HR teams’ workloads, writes Steve Black, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Topia. They will have to manage the post-Brexit administration covering employees’ overseas travel. Due to new regulations, HR teams now need to have a greater understanding of where employees are. Non-compliance can mean financial, business, and reputational loss.

The reason? On January 1, 2021, Brexit became a reality in terms of travel regulations. Post-Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the Schengen Agreement. The original treaty was signed in 1985, but in 1999 it was incorporated into European Union law under the Amsterdam Treaty. The UK opt-out included in the treaty was taken advantage of during Brexit. It means that UK employees can no longer freely travel across Europe. Let’s take a look at the new regulations, what could happen if they are not adhered to, and some advice for HR teams.

Travel

Today, each employee effectively has 90 days in a rolling 180-day window that they can spend in the Schengen Area countries without a visa. Now, vacation time, as well as weekend time or non-work time, counts towards those 90 days. An employee could conceivably end up in a situation where a two week holiday in France means they have spent too long on the Schengen Area and can’t get on a flight to attend a business meeting in Germany the following week. Personal life can therefore prevent you from doing something for work – or vice versa.

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While travel to a European country does not always require a visa, there are certain circumstances when a UK citizen may need one. These include

Also, UK workers may require a Schengen Area visa, depending upon their nationality – single visa, double-entry visa, and multiple entry visa are available. The right to work in the UK does not mean there is a right to travel to or work within Europe. HR teams need to track when and where employees are both for work and personal time.

There are other regulations that HR teams may need a greater awareness of as enforcement tightens post-pandemic and post Brexit including:

Why is this important

The carrot for many businesses is the revenue they can gain from selling or delivering services to foreign markets. However, failing to comply with regulations will have an impact and may include:

If the fines and travel bans weren’t enough to spark compliance, the potential reputational damage of having a senior leader banned from Schengen countries is huge. Further, in keeping an eye on business success, a project delivery could be at risk if a consultant is stopped mid-project from travelling. Managing these concerns is a crucial part of capitalizing on international opportunities.

Some things to consider for HR Teams

There are some questions that the UK HR teams need to review regularly to determine how ready your business is to operate abroad:

What to do

In summary, as travel starts to reopen, UK companies need to be thinking about Brexit compliance in addition to the evolving COVID compliance for travel. They need to be thinking about posted worker notifications and the complexity that creates. They need to consider the permanent establishment risk with employees travelling. Most importantly, they need a method to track employee travel, both personal and business, in a centralised location that can automate the relevant processes and provide warnings around compliance risks, because managing compliance for international travel is becoming increasingly complex.

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