Hiring and Employing Remote Talent: The Legal Aspects

Hiring and Employing Remote Talent The Legal Aspects

In technical terms, “Remote Talent” refers to a skilled individual who works from a location outside the office. They are often independent workers who may be hired on a short-term, long-term, or even permanent basis, but will most likely not be physically attending the actual office or business location. Further, most remote talent will work for multiple clients at once.

Thereby, in comparison with full-time office employees, remote talent may or may not be given access to all the benefits that are usually provided by the company (i.e., the benefits/allowances usually provided to full-time office employees). But, on the other hand, remote workers can choose their own work locations, timings, avoid work commute, and also work for multiple clients at the same time – For employers of remote workers are disallowed from implementing restrictions regarding the same.

 The Benefits to Hiring Remote Talent

There are many benefits of using remote talent, the most obvious being a reduction in operational costs. As remote talent is an option that mainly extends a flexible choice of working to those who cannot function as regular employees, certain allowances like HRA (house rent allowance), DA (daily allowance), insurance, and medical claim benefits might not be applicable to them. However, such norms vary from one company to another and from country to country.

The Contract is the Most Important Aspect of Hiring Remote Talent

When you are hiring remote talent, make sure that every expected role and responsibility is noted and confirmed on a legal contract. This document should talk about the ownership of work, intellectual property rights, and employee benefits, as well as any additional benefits, restrictions, or allowances offered by the company, with regards to the time-span of the contract and the work that the particular remote talent is being hired to do.

For those looking for guidelines on drawing up such contracts, consider Upwork’s legal contracting guidelines as a good source.

The Current Scenario

Today, most of the regular benefits extended to normal full-time employees are also common for remote workers. However, the company still cuts down a lot on costs regarding infrastructure and resources with them. Therefore, providing them other benefits enable recruiters to draw in and keep highly qualified and talented workers at an economic remuneration.

Remote freelancers can work in various roles and industries. And, based on one’s role and level, the extent of the employee benefits to that remote worker will vary. Mostly though, it depends on the performance and quality of work delivered.

In any case, with the telecommunication technologies available today, managing remote workers is very doable in practically any kind of business.

Allowing the Option of Remote Talent in your Company can be Cost-Advantageous for You

By allowing candidates to work from remote locations, companies actually get access to a global level of talent, thereby not being limited to a geographically based pool of candidates. In fact, there are some companies who’ve gotten it down to an art: for there is barely a difference noted for remote workers in terms of performance and job satisfaction.

Remote employees work from their own comfort zones, where usual distractions can be avoided. (Or else, these might be employees who thrive on chaos and have similar work environments in their chosen location.) Plus, telecommuting saves money for the business as candidates pay for their own utilities, electricity, and computer.

Comparing the Official Work Benefits Offered to Remote and Regular Employees

Full time employees in a company get paid leaves, sick leaves, casual leaves, along with paid vacation time. This is a benefit that most remote workers do not partake in fully. However, if remote candidates have been working for a company for a long time, then they may attain all these benefits in addition to their flexible work timings. However, not all companies employ this practice, and it requires a continuous delivery of good work performance in order for remote employees to reach this stage.

There are usually health benefits that a company offers to its full-time employees. And this is one aspect which might not be open for remote workers at all: PF is another facility to which they are not liable for. However, based on the EPF policy, health benefits can be mapped and given accordingly. Do note, though, that these are not stringent norms.

Also, if the work is stressful and involves large amounts of occupational hazards, then most companies offer planned health schemes for a fixed duration of time (subject to the company’s respective policy change) for both remote and regularly employed talent.

However, if remote workers are noted as employees in a company officially, then their benefits will be the same as full-time employees. And here, they will be equal to their full-time colleagues: in terms of communication, accountability, and identification with the company. In some nations, companies provide remote working options where remote workers get the whole gamut of employee benefits as well.

On the other hand, in some countries, limited-to-no employee benefits are given to remote workers, as they are considered as allied workers, and not for the primary processes. Therefore, when remote workers are involved, check these legalities based on the country and state that the company or business is being run in.

Blurring of Lines between Employees and Clients

In today’s age of digital inclusion and virtual workplaces, hiring remote talent is quickly becoming a common trend. And consequently, that means the legal aspects of hiring remote employees are adapting and upgrading them as well – which is why different countries and companies have vastly different legalities in place when it comes to remote talent.

However, one aspect of hiring remote talent is that the lines between employees and clients have now blurred, and in more ways than one:

One common incident of these blurring of lines is that the remote talent a company hires can later hire the company in turn for their own services (and vice versa). For instance, a team of Android developers can be remotely hired by a company for coding and app development tasks for a short-term contract; and later, the same team can hire the company for services that will enable them (i.e., the team of Android developers) to complete another project that they are a part of.

Yet another result of this increasing trend of hiring remote talent is the establishment of freelancer recruitment and freelance job search platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, Elance, and a number of other similar online platforms. And here again, the separating divide between employees and clients blur. For, here, a remote team or independent talent can take turns acting as the client and remote talent on such platforms. Or they can act as both the client and freelance employee at the same time, depending on their needs.

In fact, the contracts themselves look similar, with mostly the same clauses, both with regards to the client as well as the freelancer. Consider the contracts on Upwork for example: Both the client policies contract and the freelancer policies contract (i.e., contractor policies contract) cover more or less the same clauses and guidelines, with only the most pertinent details being different.

However, this aspect makes developing contracts a careful and detailing task due to the flexibility (regarding the involved parties) now available.

Defining Employees as a Remote Talent and a Regular Employee

The U.S. is the most prominent country to tackle the case of smoothing legalities between the shift to digital labor. In fact, remote talent often have to be declared a regular employees based on a certain set of conditions, thereby entitling many remote workers to the same employee benefits as a company’s regular employees. However, a remote talent can be classified as independent contractors unless:

  • a remote talent’s role in a company insists on a particular location or time-range as part of their role
  • the remote talent’s role in a company is “integral” to the working of the company
  • the freelancer’s role restricts them from taking up work from other clients

So again, based on the country’s own labor laws and definitions, companies have to respectively define a remote worker as a regular employee, independent contractor, or part-time employee.

Plus, in addition to benefits and allowances, depending on the state’s respective tax laws, if a remote worker draws more than a particular amount per year (as defined by the tax laws) from the company, the company is obligated to deduct TDS if necessary (again, as per the respective state laws). PF and ESI follow the same criteria of legalities as well.

The company, Uber, is a good example of a company that uses remote talent to full capacity. However, the debates on whether an Uber driver should be considered a remote worker or a regular employee quite literally changed the legal framework of how such workers and employees are defined in the U.S. However, despite this, there is no doubt that Uber has changed the face of remote employment. The case study of Uber could very well change how current labor regulations define workers in the U.S. as well.

In conclusion, to ensure the best retention rate for both full time employees as well as remote talent, companies must ensure that they follow the entirety of the legal aspects their country and state (of establishment) is subject to regarding the same. In fact, businesses should consult legal consultants and professionals to ensure the process of hiring remote talent along with regular employees is hassle free. Plus, maintaining fair and established legal norms regarding the same will standardize the process for the respective industries as well – thereby ensuring that neither the remote workers nor the companies involved get taken advantage of or face legal conflicts in the future.

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