Working Abroad as a British National - What Are Your Rights?

02 May 2017

For many, being asked by your employer to work abroad would be an exciting but intimidating prospect. There are all kinds of uncertainties you could face, including living arrangements, language barriers, and taxation. With all the other considerations, it’s important not to forget to make sure you are aware of your employment rights in the new country.

Temporary Work Abroad

Whilst temporarily working abroad, you should still be under contract with your employer in the UK. This means that the terms of your employment contract would still apply during your time abroad, and you should still be able to bring any legal claims against your employer within the English legal system.

If you usually work and are based in the UK but your employer asks you to temporarily move to another European Union (EU) country, you may be entitled to protection under the Posted Workers Directive. This is an EU Law which guarantees that you receive the minimum standards of employment that apply in the country in which you are working. These standards include wages, holidays, working hours, health and safety, and discrimination protection.

So if the country you are moving to has higher minimum standards than the UK, you would be entitled to the higher entitlements whilst you are working there.

If the country you are moving to has worse benefits, or is not within the EU, you can still rely on the minimum standards protected under English Law, as these will form part of your contract of employment.

Permanent Work Abroad

If you are moving abroad to work abroad permanently, your legal rights may differ. You should check your contract of employment carefully as this should state which legal jurisdiction your contract falls within.

If the company you work for is based in the UK, you may find that English Law applies even if you work abroad permanently. If so, you would be entitled to the same employment rights as you would if you were based in the UK itself.

If your contract does not state which country’s law applies, there are procedures in place to identify the most appropriate jurisdiction depending on where you are working. These are not always straightforward and so you should obtain legal advice from an Employment Lawyer immediately.

If your contract is not governed by English Law, you should seek legal advice from an Employment Lawyer in the country in which you are working. If you are still working within the EU, you may find that a lot of the minimum employment rights you would have received in the UK still apply, as these have been created for all EU countries. However, that will not always be the case, and it’s very unlikely you will have the same employment rights in non-EU countries.

With the Brexit vote there is a greater degree of uncertainty as to what legal rights you will be entitled to following the UK’s departure, for details see Potential Impact of Brexit on UK Employment Rights. There will therefore be more of a need to carefully consider your employment contract and get legal advice if you intend to work abroad on a permanent basis.*

*Please note that this article was written prior to any decision on whether EU Law is still binding on UK employees post-Brexit and may be subject to change by the UK government.

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