Fixer: Can we refuse a request from an employee to work remotely from another EU country?

The staff member is high performing and already working from home in the UK

Can a company refuse a flexible working request to work from another EU country – even if the employee is high performing and working remotely at home in the UK anyway (and has been for the past six months with no issues)? And if that employee were to take out insurance for work-related IT kit, such as their mobile phone and laptop, would that strengthen their case? 

This may seem like a simple request to the employee, but it is complicated by the imminent end of the Brexit transition period. UK and EEA nationals currently have the right to live and work in any EEA country, but this will change on 31 December 2020.

It’s important to consider the tax and social security implications of such a move. These depend on how long the employee expects to work abroad. It may generate a tax residency, so you need to consult a tax expert about the specific situation. Furthermore, if employees live and work abroad, even for short periods, they can become subject to employment legislation in that other country. These laws may override the terms of their UK contract and may impact on things such as minimum rates of pay, paid annual holidays and rights on termination. 

Other aspects that should be explored include data protection arrangements and health and safety. How will you inspect the employee’s working environment or ensure that it meets that country’s local requirements? How will you manage the employee remotely? It isn’t impossible, but these are all questions you need to answer before making your decision. Therefore, who pays the insurance is not the most important factor here.