{Rivermate | The ultimate guide to hiring remote employees in the UK

Remote Work and Productivity

The ultimate guide to hiring remote employees in the UK

Published on:

May 31, 2024

Written by:

Lucas Botzen

Key Takeaways:

  1. The UK labor laws apply to both in-office and remote workers. The employer is obliged to provide minimum living wage, paid time off, and other statutory benefits to remote employees.

  2. Having a written contract is not mandatory in the UK. Instead, a written statement of employment particulars is the mandatory document employers should provide their employees.

  3. The UK payroll system’s key elements include tax codes, the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system, the issuance of P45, P60, and P11D forms, and national insurance contributions.

The UK is familiar with hiring people to work remotely. In 2020, more than 56% of their workforce turned to remote work amid coronavirus. Statistics show that in 2023 many UK employees kept their remote status. The percentage of people working fully remotely is 10%, and people working from home sometimes is 29%.

Many employees cherish their work-from-home arrangements. It offers greater flexibility and better work-life balance. It’s also easy for companies to see the benefits of hiring remote employees. They get access to a diverse workforce and global talent while reducing overhead costs.

However, each country has its own set of laws and regulations governing remote work, and the UK is not an exception. Many changes happened after Brexit, which further complicates the hiring process.

Here’s a guide that aims to streamline the hiring process of remote workers in the UK. It will cover employment and labor laws and regulations, and offer advice for hiring remote employees in the UK. Plus, the guide will cover key factors for establishing healthy and long-term collaboration.

Which roles are perfect for remote work?

Remote roles are applicable across almost all industries. But, not all roles can be filled remotely, and some may require your employees to work in the office.

Even so, technology and creative sectors are ideal for remote work. You may consider hiring remote employees to fill these roles:

  1. Software developers,

  2. Web and graphic designers,

  3. Customer service representatives,

  4. Sales professionals,

  5. Digital marketers.

What are the laws and regulations governing hiring remote workers in the UK?

When you are hiring remote employees in the UK, you need to be mindful of relevant employment and labor laws to maintain compliance. These laws protect both employees and employers, so it is important to understand them before you post that job advertisement.

Labor and employment laws in the UK

Keep in mind that remote employees are entitled to the same protections as your in-office employees. As an employer, you are required to deduct income tax and maintain records for payroll. While you do save on overhead costs, you still need to provide:

  • The minimum wage currently stands at £11.44 per hour.

  • Statutory sick pay, which stands at £116.75 per week for up to 28 weeks,

  • 28 days (or 5.6 weeks) of paid holiday annually,

  • Statutory time off for emergencies

  • Statutory redundancy pay

  • Statutory maternity, paternity, parental, adoption, and shared parental leave and pay.

Employers should also follow the regulations that give workers the right to request flexible working. There is also a mandatory minimum notice period for workers in case of dismissal. The employers should also be mindful that the employees have protections from unfair dismissal under the UK’s labor law.

Depending on the type of work the employee does, the employer might be required to provide health and safety precautions or insurance. They should also comply with laws against discrimination, and comply with laws that govern working hours.

Your employees generally cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average. If your employees are under 18 years of age, this is lowered to 40 hours a week.

You are also obliged to provide your employees with breaks in the UK. They are entitled to a 15-minute break every 4 and a half hours. After six hours, your employees are entitled to a 30-minute break, which may or may not include the previous 15 minutes.

Hiring global remote teams as an employer in the UK

You may have to follow some additional legal requirements if you want to hire employees abroad. Typically, you have to register a presence in the country you want to hire in. You also have to navigate that country’s labor and employment laws and ensure compliance with any relevant regulations.

Or, you might have to relocate your employees to the UK to maintain compliance. You will have to assist your employees with obtaining relevant visas, and permits, and in some cases, sponsor their relocation.

For smaller companies that can’t afford the investment of starting a presence or relocating the talent, hiring an EOR might be a better choice. It allows employers the liberty to hire anyone globally, by acting as a legal employer in their country while the employee works for you.

Understanding which laws apply when hiring remotely in the UK

When hiring remote employees in the UK, it is important to understand which employment laws apply to your business.

The main legislation that governs employment in the UK is the Employment Rights Act 1996. There are also the Equality Act 2010, and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. These laws apply to all employees, regardless of their location.

In addition to these general employment laws, there are also the Working Time Regulations 1998. These set limits on working hours, rest breaks, and annual leave entitlement.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require employers to assess and manage the risks associated with remote workers using display screen equipment.

Things to consider when drafting employment contracts in the UK

While in the UK a written contract is not required by law, employers will benefit from having one. It sets in writing what the parties agreed on and can be used in case any miscommunication occurs.

Typical UK employment contracts include several components you should consider as well.

1. Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions of employment outline the basic details. It should cover the job title, start date, and notes on any probationary period. It should also include how many and what hours the employee is expected to work. If the employee is remote, you may or may not include it in the contract. Otherwise, you’d include the office address as well.

The terms and conditions should also include details about the compensation. Make sure to include the employee’s salary, benefits, agreed bonuses, and other relevant details.

2. Confidentiality agreement

The confidentiality agreement is one of the most important aspects of the contract, as it protects your business and your clients. It stops employees from sharing company information they learn during their employment.

3. Non-compete clause

One of the main reasons why you would go with employees rather than contractors is because you don't want them working with the competition. Having a non-compete clause in your contract prohibits employees from working with a competitor. It also prohibits them from starting their own business in the same industry for a while.

This way, your trade secrets are protected, and you also get to protect your clients and other sensitive information.

4. Termination of employment clause

While it’s important to outline the start, it is advisable to outline the termination process as well. It should include the conditions which could cause the contract termination. It should also outline grounds for dismissal and notice periods. You should also include any post-termination requirements from the employee.

5. Dispute resolution

Both parties need to know what should happen in case of any disputes. This section of the contract should outline the process for resolving disputes if they arise. It may include provisions for arbitration and mediation. It should also list regulatory bodies responsible for solving any problems.

Written statement of employment particulars

A written employment contract is not required by law in the UK. But, the employer is legally bound to provide a written statement of employment particulars to the employee. This should be delivered to the employee on the first day of work.

Employment particulars should include relevant details about the job. Similar to the terms and conditions part of the formal contract, the employment particulars should cover:

  1. The employer’s and employee’s name

  2. Job title, description of work, and start date

  3. How long the job is going to last, end date if it’s a fixed-term contract, notice period

  4. Work hours, and days of work. It should also include whether the employee should work on Sundays, at night, or take overtime.

  5. How much and when the worker will get paid

  6. Where the employee will work or if the employee might have to relocate.

  7. Holiday entitlement, including public holidays

  8. Any other benefits offered

  9. Obligatory training, and who is funding it

  10. Sick pay and the procedure for obtaining it

  11. Other paid leave, including parental leave

A wider written statement should go with a written statement of the particulars within two months. It should include information about collective agreements. Also, about pensions and pension schemes, and disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Key factors to consider when hiring

Hiring remote employees is a different process than hiring them traditionally. This is very true when you hire globally.

To hire people globally, you may rely on job boards or staffing agencies in the desired country to find the right talent. Since you will be competing with companies worldwide to find the right staff, it is important to plan it right. You should plan the job position, job ad, and other aspects of the position in detail.

Create a Detailed Job Description for Remote Work

One of the first steps for an effective remote hiring strategy is to create a detailed job description. This job description should clearly outline the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations. It is important to be specific about the skills and experience required. You should also list any specific tools or software the candidate should be familiar with.

It is also important to include information about the company's remote work policies and expectations. This can include details about working hours or any specific requirements for remote employees.

Provide excellent perks to attract top talent

You’ll also need to think about what bonuses, perks, and benefits you will provide your employees. As mentioned before, you will have to provide all statutory benefits, but you may also need to offer more to attract top talent.

A remote job position is a perk in itself, but other competitive benefits will also be crucial for finding the right person for the job. It can be a pension plan, private healthcare insurance, or continuous learning opportunities. Either way, you should offer great perks as that might be what sets you apart from other employers.

Conduct Digital Interviews

Once the applications start coming in, it is important to conduct digital interviews. These will help you to assess the candidates' suitability for remote work. You can interview candidates through video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Skype.

During the interview, it is important to ask the right questions. You should try to assess their ability to work independently, time management, and communication skills. It is also important to check their technical skills and their familiarity with remote work tools and software.

Additionally, it can be helpful to include a practical component in the interview process. This can involve assigning a small task or project that simulates the type of work the candidate will be doing in the remote role. This allows businesses to assess the candidate's skills and abilities in a real-world scenario.

Onboarding remote employees

You’ll also need to modify onboarding. While there are many pros and cons to remote work, one of the major cons is a more complicated onboarding process.

Employers will need to invest significant time and energy in online onboarding and training. This is true for companies that use complex software or processes. Here are some strategies you can put in place to ease the onboarding process.

1. Digital Onboarding Platforms

One of the most effective ways to onboard remote employees is through digital onboarding platforms. These platforms provide a centralized location for new employees. It will help them to access all the necessary information and resources they need to get started. On these platforms, they can complete all the required paperwork. They can also watch training videos, and learn company policies and procedures.

These platforms also allow HR and managers to track the progress of new employees. It will help HR ensure employees are completing all the necessary tasks. They can also use these platforms to schedule virtual meetings, for a more personal and interactive onboarding.

2. Comprehensive Training Programs

Remote employees need comprehensive training programs. These should cover all aspects of their role and responsibilities. This can include training on specific software or tools they will be using. It should also include training on company policies, procedures, and culture. The latter is important with globally diverse teams.

These training programs can be pre-recorded videos, live webinars, and interactive e-learning modules. It is important to ensure that the employees can complete these training materials at their own pace.

Additionally, providing remote employees with access to a knowledge base or a library of resources can be beneficial. This allows them to find answers to common questions without having to constantly reach out to their manager or colleagues.

3. Peer Mentoring

Pairing new employees with mentors can improve and speed up their onboarding and training experience. Mentors can provide guidance, answer questions, and offer support to new employees as they navigate their new roles.

Regular check-ins and virtual meetings between them can help build a strong relationship. It will also help ensure the new employee feels supported and connected to the team. Mentors can also provide valuable insights and tips based on their own experiences. It will help new employees adapt to their new remote work environment.

4. Efficient Feedback Systems

Feedback is crucial for growth and development. An efficient feedback system can help remote employees find areas for improvement.

Regular one-on-one meetings between managers and remote employees are a must. These can provide an opportunity for feedback and open communication. These meetings can be video calls or phone calls, allowing for a more personal and interactive experience.

Additionally, implementing a peer feedback system can also be beneficial. It allows remote employees to receive feedback from their colleagues. This creates a collaborative and supportive work environment.

5. Regular Updates and Communication

Regular updates and communication for remote employees help them feel connected with their team. Managers should provide regular updates. These can be company news, projects, and goals to keep remote employees informed and involved.

Regular team meetings and virtual social events can also help remote employees feel like they are part of a team. Creating a culture of open communication can help employees feel comfortable asking for support.

Basics of UK Payroll: What You Need to Know as an Employer

As an employer in the UK, understanding the basics of payroll is essential. Here are some key elements and processes involved in the UK payroll system to help you ensure compliance.

Structure of the UK Payroll System

The UK payroll system’s key elements include tax codes, the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system, the issuance of P45, P60, and P11D forms, and national insurance contributions.

Tax Codes

Employers use tax codes to calculate the amount of tax they have to deduct from an employee's wages. Each employee has a tax code, assigned by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), based on their circumstances.

Employers need to ensure that they have the correct tax code for each employee, as using the wrong tax code can result in under or overpayment of tax. Employers can get the tax codes for their employees from HMRC or through the use of payroll software.

PAYE (Pay As You Earn) System

The PAYE system employers use to deduct income tax and national insurance contributions from employees' wages.

Employers must operate PAYE if they have employees earning above the PAYE threshold. This is currently set at £242 per week, £1,048 per month, or £12,570 per year.

The PAYE system ensures that employees' tax and national insurance contributions are deducted at source. It means they are taken directly from their wages before they are paid.

P45, P60, and P11D Forms

The P45, P60, and P11D forms are important documents that employers must issue to their employees at various points throughout the year.

A P45 is issued to an employee when they leave a job. It contains details of their earnings and the tax and national insurance contributions deducted during their employment. The employee must give their P45 to their new employer when they start a new job.

A P60 is issued to employees at the end of each tax year, which runs from April 6th to April 5th of the following year. The employer must provide it by 31 May. P60 summarizes the employee's total earnings and the tax and national insurance contributions deducted during the tax year.

A P11D form is used to report any expenses, benefits, or other taxable items provided to employees that are not included in their regular wages. Examples of items that may need to be reported on a P11D form include company cars, private medical insurance, and childcare vouchers.

National Insurance Contributions

National insurance contributions (NICs) are payments made by both to fund various state benefits. The example includes the state pension and healthcare. Employers are responsible for deducting the employee's NICs from their wages. And, they have to make additional contributions on behalf of the employee.

The amount of NICs an employee and employer must pay depends on the employee's earnings and their national insurance category letter. The different categories determine the rate at which NICs are calculated and the benefits the employee is entitled to.

It is important for employers to accurately calculate and deduct the correct amount of NICs from their employees' wages. Failure to do so can result in penalties and legal consequences.

How to establish an engaged and productive environment with remote employees?

In-office environment is designed to get everyone together. It keeps them engaged in their work by removing home distractions. It also encourages employees to collaborate, innovate, and be more productive at work. But, how do you achieve this in the UK, when a majority of your team is across the globe?

The first thing you need to do is create clear communication channels. These are the keys to effective collaboration with a remote team. You may also consider implementing asynchronous work where possible, especially if you have employees across different time zones.

You also need to consider security. Ensuring data security and privacy is the key, especially since in the UK, your company falls under the UK’s GDPR jurisdiction. You might consider implementing more security measures. It could also require you to purchase specialized software for your employees. In some cases, it could mean providing necessary equipment to your employees.

How to establish and maintain compliance when hiring remote employees in the UK?

Establishing robust compliance policies and procedures is crucial for companies operating in the UK to mitigate compliance risks. These systems protect your company against violations of employment law. They also ensure the organization operates ethically and legally.

Here are a couple of recommendations on how to maintain compliance when hiring remotely in the UK:

1. Conduct a Compliance Risk Assessment

The first step is to conduct a comprehensive compliance risk assessment. It involves identifying and evaluating the potential compliance risks that the company may face when hiring employees.

These risks may include issues related to discrimination, harassment, or data protection. They can also be related to health and safety, and other areas of employment law. A risk assessment that considers all relevant laws allows you to create accurate company policies.

2. Develop Clear and Comprehensive Policies

The next step is to develop clear and comprehensive policies that address these risks. Policies should outline the company's expectations and standards regarding employment practices. They should also guide how to comply with relevant laws and regulations.

It is essential to ensure that these policies are accessible to all employees. They should be written in clear and concise language and available in an employee handbook. Companies should also consider providing training sessions or workshops.

3. Communicate and Train Employees

Communication and training are key to ensuring all employees understand and follow these. You should communicate the company’s policies clearly and regularly to all employees, including new hires.

To do this, you can send email updates, and newsletters, or arrange company-wide meetings. You may also provide training to employees on compliance-related topics. This can include training on anti-discrimination and harassment policies. Or, data protection, and health and safety regulations.

4. Enforce Compliance Policies

To emphasize the importance of these policies, establish procedures for reporting and investigating compliance violations. It includes providing employees with a safe and confidential channel to report any concerns or violations.

If there are any violations, solutions may include warnings, retraining, or, in severe cases, termination of employment.

5. Regularly Review and Update Policies

Employment laws and regulations change. Companies and their policies need to stay up to date with any developments. Reviewing and updating compliance policies ensures they are in line with current laws and regulations.


Can UK companies hire remote workers?

UK companies can hire remote workers. But, to hire them as employees, UK companies need to establish a presence in the worker’s country to legally hire them, or rely on an EOR provider.

Is remote work allowed in the UK?

Yes, it is allowed both for UK residents looking to work for a foreign company, and non-UK residents looking to work for a UK company.

Can a tourist work remotely in the UK?

Yes, you can work remotely in the UK with a Visitor visa. Under new provisions adopted in December 2023, UK visitors may continue to work remotely while on their visit to the UK. It doesn’t require a special visa.

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