Working overseas on a UK contract: Legal and logistical considerations

There's a difference between the technical possibility and the legal and logistical realities of executing a UK contract from abroad – a difference which warrants extra appreciation with government or sensitive contracts, writes Simon Komodromos, head of legal affairs at Access Financial.

While the rise of remote work offers flexibility, restrictions often apply, particularly in these areas:

  • Government/SC Contracts: These contracts frequently have location limitations due to security concerns, data protection regulations, or the need for on-site presence.

The authorities might cite legislation like the Official Secrets Act 1989 to potentially enforce these restrictions. There may be equivalent laws in the country of work that you must watch out for.

  • Contractual Clauses:  Even without an explicit "no remote work" clause, requirements for a specific work location or access to secure facilities could make remote work impractical.

Key considerations

  • Embargoed Countries: Be aware of countries with sanctions that could impact your work.
  • Tax Implications: Working abroad for extended periods might affect your UK tax residency and potentially trigger tax obligations in the country you're working from. For example, a month working in Zurich makes you a tax resident in Switzerland and brings you into the Swiss tax net.
  • Data Protection: Data transfer restrictions might apply depending on the destination country.

Avoiding ‘Flying Under the Radar’

Hiding your location with IP-masking tools is unreliable and might violate the contract's spirit, even if not explicitly contractually prohibited.

There are also security risks associated with working outside secure networks.

We have read forums where members have advocated ‘getting away with it.’

If you avoid blocked countries, you might be fine, with some reporting to have succeeded in this for a 12-month contract.

But regarding detection through a VPN failure – which happened to one such poster, I read a recommendation to hop back on a plane and show up at work. I fear this is not a way to sleep easily at night, or build a reputation which will get you rehired, and we would not recommend it!


As to what we do recommend:

  • Review Your Contract:  Carefully examine clauses regarding work location and data security.
  • Transparency is Key:  If you wish to work abroad, please be upfront with the client and negotiate terms that would help you achieve this.
  • Seek Legal Advice:  For complex government contracts, consult an employment lawyer specialising in this area, or contract law, to understand the legal implications.

Remember, despite what you hear and could (could) potentially ‘get away with,’ transparency and open communication are crucial. If you want to avoid burnt bridges, spoiled reputation, a failed renewal attempt and worse,. Negotiating with the client for a remote work amendment – in an era where many clients no longer blink at such a request - is always the best course of action. 

Additional resources which IT contractors looking to work remotely might find helpful are the official hub for security vetting, and the latest countries on the UK sanctions list.

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Written by Simon Komodromos

Simon studied for the LLB at Hertfordshire University, LLM at London Guildhall and LPC at London Metropolitan University while working for the then-HMCE now HMRC.

Simon returned to Cyprus and trained at a law office and became a member of the bar. He found a home in Access Financial working as a contracts administrator, and now heads of the legal affairs department. Simon is also a DPO practitioner. 

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