UK: International Employment: Where Is It Best To Work And Why?


Our world is more open and accessible than ever before. With rapid technological advances, agile working is not just about working from home, but working from anywhere – including overseas. However, employment laws are far from international and it is well worth considering the rights that you can rely on in different countries when choosing where you want to live and work.

Here four of our international employment lawyers give you a guide to employment rights in four Withers locations.

United Kingdom

Once upon a time, UK employment law was all about the master-servant relationship and children cleaning soot-filled chimneys. However, if you are based in the UK today, you will enjoy far better employment rights than your historic counterparts.

Particularly for those coming from the US, the most unusual concept in UK employment law will be unfair dismissal, which runs contrary to the US idea of 'at-will' employment. This means that if you have more than two years' service, you can only be fired for a fair reason following a fair process – or will be entitled to compensation. The potentially fair reasons are capability (which may include ill-health or underperformance), misconduct (either gross misconduct which warrants immediate dismissal or repeated misconduct following warnings), redundancy, and breach of a statutory requirement (e.g. loss of immigration rights). From an employee's point of view, probably the most interesting and unusual fair reason for dismissal is 'some other substantial reason' that would justify dismissal ('SOSR'). Do be aware that it has been held by the courts that a SOSR dismissal can include personality clashes between colleagues that become so severe that the business is being disrupted.

We all know that relocating for a job can be an expensive business but what you might not know is that many employers will assist you, particularly where an international relocation is required. In the UK, employers can cover up to £8,000 in respect of certain removal expenses and benefits for new employees without liability for income tax or National Insurance (the UK's social security regime). There are certain restrictions and conditions on this, notably that the relocation expenses must be incurred before the end of the tax year following the one in which you start the new job, but it is a helpful tool to put tax-free money into your pocket.

Finally, to compensate for the fact it is always raining in the UK (!) full-time employees are entitled to at least 28 days' holiday per year (including 8 public holidays). We find that many senior executive contracts provide for 32 to 34 days and, unlike in some jurisdictions, you generally won't be judged by your employer or colleagues for taking all of that. In fact, an increasing number of employers allow employees to 'buy' additional holiday. Those extra days are truly invaluable when you are thinking of flying further afield in search of somewhere warm and sunny.

Whilst we may not have the weather, we have castles, palaces and quaint little towns a plenty. And never forget – if you work in London, Blenheim Palace and the Great British countryside are just over an hour away and Paris just over two by Eurostar.

United States

While the United States may not have quite as many worker protections as its UK (or Asian) counterpart(s), its inherent capitalistic and free-will spirit are often a motivating factor for those who choose to work and live there.

As a general default position, most employment relationships in the U.S. are considered to be 'at-will'. Essentially, the employment relationship can be severed by either party with or without notice or cause provided that the reason is not unlawful. This at-will relationship offers the opportunity for flexibility during your career; you can search and move to better financial opportunities when they present themselves, new and exciting challenges, and depart from unsatisfying interpersonal relationships in the workplace, all without consequence or restraint from your employer. This works both ways, creating optimal relationships and success for both employers and employees when the economy is thriving.

Similarly, while you may be asked to agree to post-employment restrictive covenants such as non-solicitation and non-competition restraints, as a general matter, most Courts will only enforce such covenants if they protect a legitimate interest of your employer. In fact, Courts will assess whether those restraints serve that legitimate purpose or are purely anti-competitive. If the latter, they will decline to uphold them or will modify them narrowly. This ensures that employees in the U.S. are not unfairly hampered from seeking new employment, whilst also encouraging mobility and a competitive spirit for all. Provided you are not using your prior employer's confidential information, you can pursue new opportunities with limited restraint.

While still lagging behind many other countries, a number of U.S. states are implementing greater protections for medical, disability and pregnancy and/or baby-bonding leave. Although these mandates put greater financial stress and responsibility on employers, employees may welcome this change and we may find that states offering these protections and benefits see an increase in their talented workforce.

Finally, those working in New York specifically and, in particular, those that find themselves working late, can take comfort in the plethora of restaurants and services open late and ready to provide a little extra flavor and spice to your working life. This allows you to focus primarily on your job and your family – not your dry cleaning.

Hong Kong

While well-known for its low, progressive rate income tax regime capped at 17% of your net chargeable income, Hong Kong also has robust employment laws and a generous pension scheme to add to the lure of working in this vibrant city.

Unlike English law, Hong Kong law gives employees the statutory right to terminate employment by giving notice or by agreeing to make a payment of wages in lieu of notice at any time. Any contractual provisions restricting the time when you may serve notice and pay liquidated damages for leaving before the expiry of a term, are fetters on your statutory rights and therefore unenforceable.

Hong Kong also has a generous pension scheme. Although you are required to contribute 5% of your monthly salary, up to a maximum of HK$1500, your employer is mandated by law to match your mandatory contributions. On top of this, you are also given the option to make voluntary contributions in addition to mandatory contributions to top up your retirement savings. You are also free to withdraw your accrued pension benefits when leaving Hong Kong permanently or when you reach early retirement at the age of 60, making for another attractive benefit.

Finally, unbeknownst to some, the juxtaposition of Hong Kong's city and nature is truly breath taking. You will always be able to find ways to escape the everyday monotony of urban life with a plethora of outdoor activities waiting at your doorstep. Within 30 minutes, you can get away from the hustle and enjoy mountain trails, outlying islands, beach barbeques, camping, sailing, wakeboarding, and junk boat trips.


Singapore is known to be a haven for employers as its employment laws provide relatively limited protection for employees. However, whilst the protections are few, they are not non-existent. Basic rights are provided under the Employment Act. You should be aware, however, that this does not apply to managers or executives, with the exception of those earning less than S$ 4,500. The good news is that the Employment Act is set to be revamped and employee protections, including managers and executives, will be extended.

At present, you are entitled to receive written notice of termination for a period tied to the length of your service. This runs from one day's notice, if you have been employed for less than 26 weeks, to 1 month, if you have been employed for five years or more. However, alternatively, you and your employer are free to contractually agree on the length of the termination period (usually between one to two months) in the event that either of you wish to terminate the employment contract.

One important benefit that all employees enjoy, whether managers or not, is the right to have a fixed percentage of your salary paid into your account with the Central Provident Fund Board by your employer, on top of your salary. Whilst you are also required to make a contribution, from 5% to 20%, your employer has to pay anywhere between 7.5% and 17%. This CPF scheme is an incredible social benefit for Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents, a hybrid forced savings / pension scheme, where you are entitled to make withdrawals from your account when you reach the prescribed age.

Finally, whether you are in a managerial, executive or any other position, you do not enjoy any statutory benefits with regards to severance. However, this stark position is alleviated by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) accepted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). The guidelines recommend that if you are retrenched, you should receive retrenchment benefits of between 2 weeks to 1 month for each year of service. While these guidelines do not have the force of law, they do have a very salutary effect and employers generally offer their retrenched employees some severance benefits.

Whilst it may seem that there are few benefits to working in Singapore, there are many personal and social incentives to living there. Singapore, perfectly situated as the “hub of Asia”, was voted in 2017 for the third year running as the world's best overall destination for expatriates. This is not surprising as the city-state offers something for everyone; abundance of rooftop bars with a speculator view of the city; year round activities such as Laneway Festival, Singapore Yacht Show, Ultra Singapore, F1 Grand Prix and ZoukOut; amazing weekend getaway destinations such as Maldives, Boracay and Bali which are a short flight away; a mix of cultures offering a delectable choice of both local and international cuisine and endless shopping at Orchard for the shopaholic in all of us. And let's not forget, as abovementioned, the Employment Act is due to be reviewed and revamped. This will improve the position of all employees in Singapore, which this is something that we can all look forward to.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions