28 September 2023
The onset of remote working post pandemic has changed the global mobility landscape with less formal arrangements becoming more commonplace alongside the old defined overseas assignments. With the UK leaving the EU, the rules surrounding social security have become a lot more complicated.
An individual would normally only pay social security in the country where they work, but this is not always the case when they work in multiple countries or are posted to another country for a period. Post Brexit there are different rules to consider depending on the home and host country.
The UK and the EU member states:
From 1 January 2021, the UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement applies, and this is more restrictive than the normal EU rules.
- An individual posted to the UK or to an EU member state can continue to pay social security in their normal country of work where the assignment will not exceed 24 months.
- An individual working in the UK and other EU member states at the same time can continue to pay social security where they live if they work there for a substantial period (normally being more than 25% of their working time).
The UK and Switzerland states:
Between 1 January 2021 and 1 November 2021, the 1968 UK-Switzerland Convention applied to new postings between the two countries for up to 24 months (with extensions to 60 months). There was no provision for multi-state workers and during this period the social security would need to be apportioned according to where the work was actually performed.
From 1 November 2021 onwards, the new UK-Switzerland Social Security Agreement applies, and this effectively mirrors the terms of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement above.
The UK and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway states:
New postings after 1 January 2021 are currently covered by the 1983 UK-Iceland Convention and the 1990 UK-Norway Convention.
- There is no agreement with Liechtenstein and an individual could become liable to social security in both jurisdictions.
- The Icelandic agreement allows for one-year postings (with a one-year extension).
- The Norwegian agreement allows for three-year postings.
- The position on multi-state working is less clear.
On 30 June 2023, an agreement was signed between the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Once ratified in each country, the agreement will mean that the rules mirror the rules above for the EU and Switzerland.
There are special rules in respect of workers on the UK and Norwegian Continental Shelf.
All three agreements can require an employer to operate a payroll in the home or host country to account for the social security wherever it may be due.
The EU Teleworker Framework
The EU has agreed a Teleworker Framework Agreement, effective from 1 July 2023 onwards. This replaces the temporary Covid guidance that allowed teleworkers to remain in their normal social security scheme whilst displaced.
A teleworker is an individual who works away from their normal place of work using an internet connection (ie. a remote worker).
Under the new framework an individual can remain in their normal social security scheme provided if:
- the registered office of their employer is in a member state that has opted into the new agreement;
- the employee habitually works in the member state of the employer’s registered office and teleworks in another member state that has also signed up to the agreement; and
- the employee teleworks for less than 50% of their total working time.
There are strict rules on making applications with time limits for making application covering periods that have already started.
Member States are required to opt into the framework with eighteen countries having already done so (including France, Germany and Spain, but not Italy) with others considering doing so in the future.
HMRC has confirmed that the UK has not signed up to the agreement meaning that teleworkers will be subject to the normal rules under the relevant social security agreement. However, the rules will still be relevant to employers who have registered offices in the EU and employees teleworking in other EU member states.
The combination of Brexit and new working arrangements has made the world of social security much more complicated. Employers who aren't up to date with the rules may find themselves facing unexpected demands for social security in countries where they do not have a presence bar for a few remote working employees.
If you would like more advice and guidance in this area, please get in touch with Joanne Webber, Ian Jones or Chris Gore.