The different types of expat contracts
Posted workers, expat or local contract, VIE, employment at will, commuters… The terms related to working abroad are numerous and sometimes difficult to understand. The various forms of working abroad have well-defined characteristics that are important to be familiar with before setting up an international mobility project.
A local contract through a local employer
More and more people are choosing to work abroad in the working conditions of the host country.
If you choose to do this, it is essential to find out about the working hours in the country of your choice, the number of days of paid leave, the rules with regard to breach of contract, but also the social benefits (health, pension scheme, protection in case of unemployment). You must also consider the cost of living when evaluating the salary on offer, as well as the tax obligations in force in the host country.
The conditions of employment may be more or less favourable compared to the benefits offered in your country of origin.
Your home country may also offer special guarantees to expats. In France, for example, registration at the Caisse des Français Expatriés is expensive, but it covers your health care when working abroad.
A local contract through your original employer
This type of contract can be signed as part of intra-group mobility. An employee who joins a subsidiary of the parent company will then be subject to the same employment regulations as local workers.
In this case, an “Expat package” is usually offered. The employer offers a contract where the cost of relocation is included. If this contract is not automatic, it can nevertheless be the subject of specific negotiation. But in general, multinationals have very specific policies and practices regarding this.
In this kind of mobility project, returning to your original job in your home country at the end of your contract abroad is an issue that should not be ignored and should be negotiated before your departure.
The freelance or entrepreneur status
Working abroad with freelance status attracts more and more people. As a result, some countries have introduced visas specifically for entrepreneurs. Since 2014, in the United Arab Emirates for example, the rules and regulations for starting a business and settling in the country have been made easier.
As all countries are different, it is essential to find out about the local legislation when starting a business or a professional project as a freelancer abroad.
The particular status of seconded or posted workers
A posted worker is an employee sent abroad by his employer to undertake a fixed-term assignment. It is therefore a temporary position whose maximum duration is defined by an agreement between the two countries.
This status is quite common in the European Union and is regulated by the European directive for Posted Workers (PWD, 1996). It regulates the movement of labour within EU countries to prevent social dumping and allow posted workers to benefit from the host country’s rights in terms of minimum wages, maximum working hours and minimum rest periods, as well as the number of paid days holidays, the conditions under which workers are available through temporary work agencies, health, safety and working conditions and gender equality.
Some countries have also signed bilateral agreements to offer workers the same social protection they receive in their own country.
The reinstatement of the employee in their original company at the end of their posting is also mandatory (repatriation).
Commuting is a form of flexible mobility that is becoming more and more common within the European Union. Commuters work weekdays in one or more countries and return to their country of residence at weekends.
The specific VIE status (Volunteering for International Experience)
International volunteering in companies allows young people from the European Economic Area aged 18 to 28 to work abroad for 6 to 18 months under certain conditions. This assignment must take place on behalf of a French company, a foreign company linked to a French company by a partnership or on behalf of an organisation having an ongoing partnership with France.
In conclusion, each country uses its own terminology to define the status of people working in another country than their country of origin. So it is essential, before accepting a job abroad, to learn about the rights and duties of workers in the host country. As for “expat packages”, they are often offered to people specially recruited to be sent abroad or as part of an intra-group mobility scheme. But they are in no way the norm.
Due to the specificities of each country, it may be preferable to take advice from an international mobility specialist in order to best prepare yourself for working abroad.