The Covid pandemic would seem the perfect occasion to pack your bags and work from abroad – be it your home country, closer to friends and family or maybe even in the shade of a palm tree. Shouldn’t be a problem you’d think, with all these people working from home and online. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s allowed. Employees who have moved base from the Netherlands during the pandemic but are still on EUR’s payroll can encounter problems with their social insurance arrangements, the tax authority and/or their health insurer. Incidentally, these rules will also apply after the pandemic.

Snags and catches

Managers occasionally endorse a staff member’s decision to work abroad – either temporarily or long-term – without knowing exactly what kind of problems this could create. The university’s Human Resources department is working hard to impress this fact on the different faculties and MTs. Because the urgency of this matter is often underestimated.

And it has already put a few people in a pickle. For example, some staff members have lost their benefits entitlements when they started working outside the Netherlands, and local authorities have fined people for failing to pay the requisite social security contributions.

What’s more: staff members may get into trouble when they seek medical aid abroad. Dutch health insurance doesn’t necessarily cover the costs of healthcare in another country – meaning that you may have to foot a steep hospital bill yourself.

No longer in public service

“Working from abroad is definitely possible, but you need to have your affairs in order. What we’d like to see is that people are duly aware of the risks before taking this step,” says HR adviser Sam Broekman, who specialises in internationalisation.

Even before the pandemic, Broekman’s department was working hard to make the necessary adjustments and arrangements for staff members based outside the Netherlands. That’s because a new act had come into force on 1 January 2020: the Public Servants (Standardisation of Legal Status) Act (WNRA). In short, this legislation has scrapped university employees’ public servant status, which had formerly assured them of Dutch social insurance – even when they weren’t actually living in the Netherlands.

Neighbouring countries

Since coverage is no longer a given, HR needs to establish separately for each staff member and country of residence which treaties are in place, and which regulations apply when determining how and where the individual should pay premiums to remain entitled to e.g. benefits. Even when you’re registered at a Dutch address but are temporarily working from abroad – due to Covid, for instance – you may have to change how you pay social insurance premiums .

Incidentally, in response to the Covid pandemic, the European Union has introduced a temporary scheme for certain work arrangements in which employees can continue to pay their contributions in the Netherlands. This scheme is primarily intended for people who work in the neighbouring countries Belgium, Germany and the UK.

EUR employees across the globe

The HR department currently has some 50 EUR staff members on its radar who are working abroad – both in EU and non-EU states – and are (or should actually be) paying social insurance premiums to local tax administrations. Of this total, 15 employees work from Belgium or Germany and now have their affairs in order. HR International is ‘working very hard’ to get the other 35 sorted as well.

EUR employees can be found as far afield as South America, the Middle East and North America. According to Broekman, virtually all of them are members of the university’s academic staff, ranging from professors to doctoral candidates. A number of EUR’s student assistants are also working from abroad, although they haven’t been included in this tally.

Incredibly complicated

“Each country has its own social insurance arrangements – including individual EU member states. That can make things very complex occasionally,” notes Broekman. As far as social security and health insurance are concerned , the Netherlands has agreements in place with its fellow EU member states, as well as most ‘Western’ countries like the UK, the US, Japan and Australia.

But looking beyond this circle paints a very different picture, so employees planning to work from abroad may first have to go through a lot of fine print and cut through masses of red tape. And of course, HR prefers everything to be settled before people start packing. Sorting this stuff out after the fact is incredibly complicated, Broekman can tell us from experience, and is often a huge source of frustration and dissatisfaction at both ends.

And that’s just social security contributions and health insurance, which are both the joint responsibility of employee and employer. Paying taxes is another story altogether: in principle, making those arrangements falls to the individual staff member.

Go to this page on MyEUR to get the full story on how these regulations work, or feel free to contact HR International via hr.international@eur.nl