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As remote work goes viral, companies and countries are scrambling to keep up

Nov 16. 2020
Mark Kuratana
Mark Kuratana
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By Mark Kuratana

Special to The Nation

The need for remote work arrived quickly when Covid-19 triggered work-from-home orders virtually overnight.

The world has never experienced such a large-scale resourcing challenge.

The Covid-19 crisis forced many companies to review their business continuity plans and scramble to find ways to deploy and manage resources differently in light of government travel restrictions.

With the crisis ongoing, companies continue to seek ways of making their resource deployment more flexible to support operations with the least disruption possible.

Some companies were able to continue with minimal disruption thanks to the nature of their business and the technology they adopted.

But for many others, challenges in resource planning are unlikely to go away quickly. “New normal” resourcing planning will be part of their strategy for the foreseeable future.

Outside Thailand, many countries were experiencing demand for remote working options before the pandemic. Technology that enabled virtual connections and meetings meant geographical location was often less of an issue when it came to acquiring talent.

This trend in workforce planning and talent acquisition will most likely grow as technology rapidly improves and enables companies to become more connected and agile. New-generation workers are also more technologically savvy and require more balance and flexibility in their work locations.

The landscape is changing quickly under pressure from government regulations and restrictions in reaction to the pandemic. We are seeing remote work evolving into various scenarios, from virtual assignments and international remote work to domestic remote work, work from home and other similar arrangements. And these are still evolving as the world and companies continue to understand the impact of Covid-19 and what this means for their present and future planning.

Each company has different features, considerations, challenges and possible remote-working solutions to choose from.

A variety of stakeholders within the company will need to align and agree on shared goals to ensure that successful remote working can be achieved. For example, implementation of remote work can have an impact on various functions of the company – including global mobility, human resources, talent, immigration, corporate tax, finance, and operations, to name a few.

At the same time, remote work can trigger unintended legal/regulatory issues concerning corporate tax, permanent establishment, withholding tax, individual double tax, social security and employment.

Thailand, for example, has various laws and regulations surrounding immigration and work requirements as well as corporate and individual income tax obligations if working in Thailand or performing work for Thailand.

To legally work in Thailand, a foreigner needs to have the right visa and work permit. The concept of “work” is broadly defined under Thai regulations and often includes working on the computer at home or at a remote location without having to be a workplace or client site.

Under the Foreigner’s Working Management Emergency Decree BE2560 (2017) and Amendment BE2561 (2018) (“Foreign Working Law”) “work” is defined as engaging in an occupation regardless of whether or not there is an employer or wages or other form of compensation.

Therefore, to legally work remotely in Thailand, a foreigner is normally required to have a work permit. This may create challenges and issues for the individual and employer since generally a work permit application must be sponsored by a Thai entity.

The risk of working remotely without the right documents typically increases over time and can also trigger other employer issues such as corporate tax, permanent establishment issues and possibly violation of the Foreign Business Act (“FBA”) if the proper foreign business licence or certificate is not obtained.

The complex laws and regulations around mobile employees are not unique to Thailand. In Southeast Asia and beyond, each country has laws governing how foreign work is defined and regulated as well as having its own laws governing individual and foreign company regulations and tax obligations.

Meanwhile in many countries there is increasing connectedness between agencies such as tax and immigration. Information sharing between countries is also increasing quickly.

The risks of not complying with country regulations can vary from financial penalties, detention, deportation or other sanctions for both the individual and companies, not to mention reputational risk.

In Southeast Asia, some countries have very active monitoring processes as well as stiff financial and operational penalties for non-compliance. With the advent of Covid-19, many national regulatory agencies have issued new rules to keep up with these changes, and this is expected to continue as the situation unfolds.

It is more important than ever for employers to be on top of these changes and plan carefully with each of their relevant stakeholders to see how this will impact their current and future workforce and to minimise any risk and disruption to their operations.

Mark Kuratana is Global Employer Services leader for Thailand, Myanmar and Laos at

Deloitte Thailand.

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