Secondment of Workers Abroad: What It Is and How It Works
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Secondment of Workers Abroad: What It Is and How It Works

How is the Secondment of Employees Abroad Carried Out? Guidelines, Regulations, and Differences from Business Trips Abroad

The secondment of workers abroad is an increasingly common phenomenon, allowing the transfer of workers within the framework of a transnational service provision. This practice, regulated at the European level, requires an in-depth understanding of the regulations to ensure proper management and protection of the rights of the involved workers.

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What is Worker Secondment?

The secondment of workers abroad involves the temporary sending of an employee by their employer to another EU country to provide a service to a host company.

The seconded worker maintains a connection with the company that sent them abroad, and continues to be subject to the legislation of the country of origin, but may benefit from the working conditions and rights granted to workers in the host country.

The regulation of secondment is primarily provided by Directives 96/71/EC and 2014/67/EU, which have been transposed into national law by individual EU countries. Therefore, it is essential to consult a local lawyer in the country where the workers are seconded to analyze the specific legislation and tax aspects.

Let’s see how transnational secondment specifically works, how long it can last, and what the obligations are for companies and employees.

How Does It Work? Secondment Contract Abroad

Although not mandatory, it is highly recommended to sign a secondment contract among the involved parties (employer, worker, and host company) to formalize the agreement and establish the conditions of the secondment. In the event of a labor inspection, a written contract will indeed facilitate the demonstration of the agreement between the parties and the subject of the transnational service provision.

What are the Requirements for Seconding a Worker Abroad?

For the secondment of an employee abroad, the following requirements are necessary:

  • Interest of the seconding employer;
  • Temporariness of the secondment;
  • Continuation of the organic link between the worker and the seconding entity.

The employer also has the obligation to inform the worker about the conditions of the secondment and to obtain their consent, if required by the legislation of the country of origin. The secondment is considered illegitimate if these requirements are not met.

When Does Transnational Secondment Apply?

But when is the secondment of workers abroad possible? Transnational secondment applies in the following cases:

  • Sending a worker to another country to perform work for a third party, while maintaining the relationship of subordination, direction, and control with the seconding company;
  • Existence of an employment relationship between the company and the seconded staff;
  • Temporary employment agencies that send personnel abroad.

Working Conditions of Seconded Workers in the Host Country

Secondment of workers abroad is a useful tool for companies, but in implementing it, it is essential to ensure the protection of workers, avoid relocation and social dumping, which is the practice of exploiting weak or non-existent labor regulations to produce goods at very low costs, often to the detriment of workers’ rights and well-being.

The legislation indeed clearly establishes the working conditions that must be guaranteed to seconded workers, including:

  • Health and safety regulations at the workplace
  • Equality of treatment between men and women and other provisions to prevent discrimination
  • Maximum working hours
  • Terms of employment negotiation, particularly through temporary work agencies
  • The set of wage components established by national legislation or collective agreements with general validity
  • Rest periods
  • Conditions of hiring and dismissal
  • Allowances or reimbursement for travel, food, and accommodation expenses in the destination country during the secondment (if travel is required during the secondment)
  • Labor regulations for pregnant women, new mothers, and young workers (under the age of 18).

If the working conditions in the country of origin are more favorable, these must be maintained during the secondment, thereby ensuring fair treatment of workers. However, there can be exceptions under certain circumstances.

The need to control and verify the application of the minimum working conditions provided for local workers implies the obligation to inform the host state about the presence of foreign workers on its territory. In this context, communicating the secondment to the workers represents a fundamental protective measure.

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What is the Maximum Duration of Secondment?

What is the maximum duration of an employee’s secondment abroad?

The secondment of workers can last up to 12 months, with the possibility of extending it for another 6 months. As of July 30, 2020, the revised 2018 directive on the secondment of workers covers long-term secondment sectors. If the duration of the secondment exceeds the established limit, the provisions of the labor law of the host member state apply.

Long-term Secondment

In the case of long-term secondment, i.e., longer than 12 months, certain additional conditions must be guaranteed, such as family visits and social security coverage. For example, if your secondment takes you to another European Union country for a considerable period, your family members have the opportunity to join you, utilizing their rights as EU citizens, but not as economically dependent individuals on you.

Difference Between Secondment and Business Trip Abroad

Many confuse the secondment abroad with a business trip abroad.

In reality, the dual concept of secondment/business trip abroad exists only for Italian law.

In Italy, secondment is regulated by the Biagi Law (Legislative Decree 276/03). According to Article 30 of the Biagi Law, secondment consists of an organizational measure by which the employer temporarily places one or more workers at the disposal of another entity for the execution of a specific work activity.

On the other hand, a business trip is a more generic concept that can have different meanings depending on the context. Often, a business trip refers to temporary work travel for meetings, projects, or assignments in locations different from the usual workplace. In some cases, a business trip can also refer to a permanent or long-term change of workplace, which might involve a new employment contract and a different set of rights and benefits for the worker.

In any case, it’s important to note that definitions and regulations may vary depending on national legislation and specific contractual conditions.

In Which Countries Can Staff Secondment Be Operated?

Staff secondment can be operated in the countries of the European Union, facilitating cooperation between companies and workers from different member states.

Secondment of Workers Abroad in Non-EU Countries

Regarding the secondment of workers in non-EU countries, not involved in the directive, the applicable regulations and working conditions may vary based on bilateral agreements or local laws of the host country. It is important to inform oneself about the specific regulations of non-EU countries before proceeding with the secondment.

Social Security Rules for Employees Seconded Abroad

Social security coverage for employees seconded abroad varies depending on the country of secondment. The employer must ensure that social security contributions are paid correctly, in compliance with the regulations of the host country.

The A1 PD form is a document that certifies which social security legislation applies to the seconded worker and is used to avoid double contribution. In the case of secondment in non-EU countries, the social security rules can be different and depend on bilateral agreements between the involved countries. It is important to inform oneself about the specific social security regulations, such as INPS, pensions, and contributions.

Secondment of Workers Abroad: Fiscal Aspects

Regarding fiscal discipline, if the secondment is less than 143 days in a calendar year, the worker retains fiscal residence in the country of origin.

If the secondment exceeds this duration, the worker acquires fiscal residence in the host country, with specific tax obligations for both the company and the worker. It is advisable to consult a tax consultant with specific experience to properly manage taxable remuneration, payroll, and any double payrolls.

Learn more in our article on pay slips in Spain.

What Should a Company Do to Second Its Workers? Communication of Foreign Secondment

A company intending to second its workers must send a communication containing:

  • The identity of the employer and the worker
  • The number of seconded workers
  • The duration of the secondment
  • The address of the workplace in the host country
  • The nature of the work performed

Additionally, it’s important to send a preventive communication of secondment also in Italy, to ensure the correct management of the secondment and assure compliance with the existing regulations.

Information for Seconded Workers

Seconded workers should be aware of the following information:

  • It is not necessary to request a work permit in the host country.
  • Registration with the social security authorities of the host country is not required.
  • Residence must be requested if the secondment exceeds a certain duration, according to the local laws of the host country.

It is useful to travel with the European Health Insurance Card to ensure access to medical care during the secondment.

Useful Websites and Information Points

Below, we provide some useful websites and information points in Europe that can provide information and assistance on the secondment of workers:

For further information and specific assistance in the host country, it is advisable to consult the competent national authorities or agencies responsible for social security and labor.

Regulations and Norms for Transnational Secondment

In Europe, the discipline and regulation concerning the secondment of workers are mainly governed by the following directives and regulations:

Contact Us for Advice on Foreign Secondment

If you need assistance with the secondment of workers abroad, do not hesitate to contact Lawants Studio. We offer consultancy services and can help you submit the request for foreign secondment. Rely on our experience to manage the secondment of your workers optimally.

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