Enabling a Global Workplace: Understanding the Legal Implications

Legal Know-How
May 16, 2023


Imagine this scenario: One of your employees, Alice, comes to you with a proposition - she wants to spend the next three months working from a quaint coastal town in southern Europe. Sounds idyllic, right? And in the post-pandemic era of remote work, why not? But before giving Alice the green light, let's navigate through some crucial legal intricacies that surround this scenario.

Key Legal Implications to Consider

Here's a quick overview of the legal intricacies that we'll delve into:

  • Understanding the difference between "home office" and "mobile work"
  • Defining employee rights for mobile work
  • Navigating the tax landscape for international mobile work
  • Work visa requirements

Delving Into the Details

Remote Work: Home Office Vs. Mobile Work

As we're getting used to terms like "work from home", another concept, "mobile work", is gaining prominence. Here's what it means: In a home office scenario, Alice's home becomes an extension of your workspace. In contrast, mobile work offers Alice the flexibility to work from any location she desires. But when that choice crosses borders, things get a tad more complex.

Defining employee rights for mobile workl

As an employer or HR professional, it's important to know that employees like Alice do not inherently have the right to work remotely from abroad, or even domestically, unless explicitly outlined in their employment contract or a collective agreement.

Also, your company's policy permitting domestic remote work doesn't automatically extend to overseas work. These regulations need to be clearly articulated and communicated.

So as you see Alice's desire to work from abroad can become a reality, but this depends on either her right to such work or your express agreement as her employer. It's important to understand that this decision bears implications and potential risks for both your organization and Alice which you should keep in mind prior to granting such approval.

While not a hard rule, it's beneficial for you to establish clear guidelines with your employees about mutual obligations in case of mobile work. From setting expectations around accessibility to lunch break norms, proactive communication is key.

Taxation Implications: Keeping It Under Control

When considering Alice's request to work from abroad, it's essential to be aware of tax and social security implications. First you should differentiate between employees and legal representatives of the company such as managing directors. When it comes to managing directors you should be especially careful with working from abroad and touch base with your tax advisors first.

But also with respect to regular employees tax implications should always be considered. With respect to employees employed in Germany in many cases, if an employee works abroad for more than 183 days a year, dual taxation could come into play. In other countries rules might differ. In case of a longer period of working from abroad both employees and employer should check local tax laws.

For your organization, this could mean handling additional administrative responsibilities, potentially involving registration, accounting, and exhaustive documentation requirements.

Work visa requirements

A significant yet sometimes overlooked aspect of the global workspace puzzle is the question of visas. The rules vary greatly depending on the destination country, so it's important to understand these requirements.

Within the European Union (EU), it's more straightforward. Employees like Alice who are citizens or legal residents of an EU country have the right to work in any other EU country without needing a work visa. This is a result of the EU's commitment to the free movement of workers.

However, when we step outside of the EU, the rules become more complex and depend on specific bilateral agreements between countries. For example, if Alice is considering working from a non-EU country, she may require a specific work visa. These visas often require proof of employment and, in some cases, specific qualifications.


The concept of working abroad, while attractive, comes with its share of legal complexities. Understanding and planning for these intricacies can make the transition smoother for both you and your employees. For any specific legal queries, professional legal advice should always be sought.

Janina Möllmann


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