In Part 1 of our step-by-step guide to the legally compliant introduction of remote work in companies, we looked at the various new forms of international work that have developed during the pandemic and defined "remote work" from the perspective of the HR department.

In the following section, we will focus on the social security aspects that remote work with an international dimension entails for companies and employees. To do this, we must first distinguish between the two basic forms of remote work. These are essentially

I. Remote work with predominant activity at the foreign place of residence

In this case, for example, a Swiss company hires an employee who primarily and continuously works "remotely" at a foreign place of residence. The employee receives an employment contract with the Swiss company that is adapted to foreign law. In general, the employee only comes to Switzerland for a few working days per month and otherwise works from a home office abroad.

II Remote work as a short-term activity abroad

In this case, employees generally work in the country of employment. This means that the employees not only have a Swiss employment contract but also work mainly in Switzerland. If these employees now wish to work abroad for a shorter period, this is also referred to as "remote work". This type of remote work is often based on the employee's initiative and desire. The distinction between this kind of remote work and classic short-term assignments is fluid and there are many recognizable parallels.

From the company's perspective, both forms of remote work are initially associated with additional administrative work. In the first case ("remote work with predominant activity at the foreign place of residence"), the company will inevitably have to deal with foreign social insurance. Due to the complexity, this cannot be done alone in most cases but requires the help of an experienced international payroll provider who not only prepares the foreign payroll statements but also registers the employee with all foreign social security institutions.

A social security certificate (e.g. A1) is required for the individual working days in Switzerland, which must always be issued by the foreign social security institution. The certificate serves as the basis for ensuring that the employee does not have to be insured under the Swiss social security system during the occasional working days in Switzerland.

However, if remote work is only a short-term activity abroad (version 2) and the employee goes abroad for a few days, weeks, or even months, the situation is substantially different. In this case, the employee should generally remain insured under the Swiss social security system and ideally be exempt from foreign social security contributions. Whether and how this can be achieved is a question of the specific country combination in conjunction with the employee's nationality.

This is also the reason why companies often restrict remote work in terms of time (e.g. up to 30 days) and location (e.g. only within the EU). From the perspective of payroll and HR departments, this is understandable, as short-term work abroad at the employee's request can involve considerable clarification on the part of HR departments, administrative effort, and also significant social security aspects to make it legally compliant.

Remote work is and will, therefore, remain complex. Nevertheless, it is worth taking a closer look at the topic to find qualified specialists abroad and to position yourself as a modern employer with appropriate benefits for your employees.

The good news is that experience in the field of remote work has grown considerably in recent years and qualified consultants can determine the feasibility and implementation of remote work for your company with great care.

  • Chapter 1: A question of definition - What is remote work anyway?
  • Chapter 2: Social security for remote work abroad
  • Chapter 3: Income Taxes for remote work abroad
  • Chapter 4: Work permits for international remote work
  • Chapter 5 (Monthly Special): Detailed practical cases of remote work for HR departments regarding income taxes, social insurance, work permits, payroll, and employment contracts.

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.