Understanding your workplace rights when working on the road

Working abroad has become a hugely popular option for many people nowadays, often as a lifestyle choice for the addicted traveller. Over 200,000 Brits leave these shores for other climes every year, relishing the many advantages to this big lifestyle change. Although some may be struggling to get work back home or specialise in a very niche academic subject so decide to travel and gain some work experience abroad, the vast majority simply want a change and are up for new experiences on the road.

However, apart from the usual issues of leaving friends and family behind and taking off to unfamiliar surroundings, there are other matters of a more technical nature that can impact on anyone’s daily life when choosing to travel and pick up occasional work in another country.

Expect the unexpected

The UK has in place one of the most comprehensive bodies of employment law in the world, more rigorous than in foreign parts and even within the framework of the EU. This protection frequently extends to UK citizens working abroad, depending on the individuals involved and their relationship with the employer as they pick up casual jobs during their travels. In other cases, rights may vary both within the country and as borders are crossed, so it’s as well to expect the unexpected and be prepared for different levels of protection.

Work permits and payments in kind

A work permit isn’t needed for UK nationals working in the EU, except for Croatia where there are temporary restrictions. Farther afield, there are short-term opportunities in all sorts of places, which may involve payment in cash or in kind, with accommodation and food often thrown in. The issue of workplace rights in connection with such employment will hardly arise, as the work will be picked up and left as the need arises.

Within the EU there are definite rules in place where there’s a formal contract involved, such as those involving the rights to equal treatments and benefits, but when working in a field in Thailand for a few days there will be no ‘rights’ as such.

Red tape

However, the issue of red tape can be a thorny one in many foreign countries, with even casual and very temporary jobs counting as formal employment as far as immigration is concerned. Authorities often require foreign workers, even very temporary ones who pick up work on the road, and their employers to fill in numerous forms and have visas in place. An oral fluid lab test is mandatory in some countries even for casual construction workers, and ignoring the rules can carry severe penalties if caught. Having a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate is often a good idea to help smooth the way and create more opportunities, and also a set of references.

A resilient and optimistic personality, and a flexible approach, is needed by anyone travelling and working abroad. Workplace rights may be non-existent depending on the country and the nature of the work, and any rights that there are will inevitably change as borders are crossed.