Bristol's Virtual Roundtable series offers our corporate clients opportunities to learn and consult with their peers in a uniquely relaxed, purely confidential setting. The roundtables are moderated by Bristol professionals along with select SME partners specialising in immigration and employment law, tax and technology, by invitation only.
Bristol will soon be launching this series in North America. Stay tuned!
Latest meeting summary: Bristol’s London office hosted a series of roundtables in September 2020 offering our European clients an opportunity to share personal connections, discuss the current state of their businesses, compare notes and collaborate on potential solutions to a wide range of challenges. Our latest meeting focused specifically on the outlook for international Business Travel Compliance which was moderated by our U.K. Director of Business Solutions, Nick Read. We are pleased to offer you a snapshot of current concerns as discussed by our predominantly European client base:
Trends around Business Travel
Current state / Short-Term outlook: As expected, almost all participants have found that business travel has reduced dramatically during the Covid pandemic. It remains unclear when conditions may change.
Near Future/Long-term outlook: When looking beyond current travel restrictions and quarantine measures, our participants expect short-distance business travel to remain below pre-pandemic levels as the new normal. The future need for face-to-face meetings is questioned in light of the seismic shift in working culture exemplified by ubiquitous use of video conferencing, the extreme cost pressures to limit non-essential travel, and the visa complexities created by Brexit (in the case of European travel). However exceptions are expected with respect to certain working cultures and many roles requiring in-person meetings or ongoing “boots on the ground”. Interestingly a majority of companies felt that long distance business travel may return to near-similar levels given that such trips are more likely to be essential.
Ownership and Leadership Buy-in: Only around half of participants reported that their mobility team owns their organisation’s business traveller programme; the rest are managed by other teams such as the business units themselves, finance or travel departments. While organizational awareness of the safety and compliance risks associated with business travel is generally good amongst the participants, some expressed concern that these risks are not particularly high on their leadership’s agenda – even where this had legal or reputational implications (for example, breach of right to work regulations or Posted Workers Directive obligations).
Tracking: Many of the participants said they face challenges associated with the tracking of business travellers. Some of the approaches being taken included the use of expense management systems such as Concur or GPS on devices as a data source for identifying business travellers and carrying out the applicable review. There was some uncertainty of the technological solutions available outside of the Big 4.
Readiness to deal with changes: There were some practical challenges with handling the changes related to Brexit and the obligations imposed by the Posted Workers Directive (PWD) including the differing legal requirements across EU jurisdictions and the resulting need for local expertise. Where the business had a presence in the European host country, we discussed the idea of having a local PWD champion. For locations with no presence, engaging a partner in those jurisdictions was a proposed solution.
Overseas Remote Working; Although not ostensibly a business traveller issue, a number of participants raised this as a current challenge including a lack of visibility about who is working where and the need for a consistent approach when considering requests for employees to work from another country. Some participants have experienced challenges in understanding and prioritising the relevant risks arising out of overseas remote working relating to tax, employment and immigration law. Annabel Mace from Squire Patton Boggs is able to share a recent global guide highlighting the relevant risks relating to overseas remote working – please contact Annabel for further details (contact information below).
We hope you find this summary useful as an indicator of the mobility conversation at this moment. Bristol will provide ongoing updates as the series continues. We encourage you to contact your Bristol representative with any questions or to request participation in future roundtables!
Special thanks to our Partners and Subject Matter Experts:
PV Piranavan Vimalraj (“PV”) - ONE Global Mobility (firstname.lastname@example.org): PV leverages 10 years of Big 4 experience leading a global tax and immigration team to help businesses manage the overseas deployment of employees, develop mobility technology strategies, manage risk and identify hidden spend reduction opportunities.
Annabel Mace, Partner - Squire Patton Boggs (email@example.com +44 782 520 4764): Annabel has over twenty years’ experience in all aspects of employment and immigration law with specific expertise on the issues arising out of cross-border working arrangements and international assignments.