International Remote Hiring and Accessibility: What you Need to Know

Published November 17, 2022

Traditional office culture has given way to the rise of remote working and hiring in the aftermath of the pandemic. This new professional reality is becoming the norm. According to Apollo Technical, around 4.7 million people in the U.S. work remotely at least half the time. 

The rise of remote work has had several consequences requiring a cost-benefit analysis. Among these consequences is the effect on workplace accessibility.

In some ways, remote work has been of tremendous benefit to accessibility. Remote employment allows easier access to work projects and training programs. Employees with various ability levels have enjoyed newfound flexibility in their work life. Remote work also provides a means for employees to access necessary accommodations.

Despite these benefits, the shift itself has opened the door to potential complications. HR professionals have to find new ways to ensure compliance with employment laws. Workplace standards of accessibility are just a part of that picture. As such, these standards are at risk of facing bureaucratic neglect. 

The culture of remote work has opened new employment frontiers in the U.S. and abroad. In the past, we have offered insight into the accessibility of remote work in the States. Today we will provide an overview of the accessibility of international remote hiring.

What is international remote hiring?

International remote hiring refers to onboarding employees based in other countries. according to Mercer, this new trend may cause issues. 

From an HR perspective, international remote hiring opens the door to compliance challenges. These challenges involve learning and following various labor laws.  Companies also have to consider various tax laws, implement an effective onboarding process, and craft relevant benefit plans.

As international remote hiring is still a relatively new development, it will take time for businesses to adjust. However, if domestic remote work is any indicator, international remote hiring is the future.

What does this have to do with accessibility?

International remote hiring leaves us with several questions about how accessibility laws apply. Employees working with employers based abroad need to know what their rights are. And employers with international workers need to know what regulations they should follow.

Published data in this area is scarce at best. It’s hard to know how this trend has affected or will affect differently-abled workers. It’s also unclear how companies will be able to maintain accessibility among remote hires from abroad. Here are some preliminary accessibility considerations for both employers and employees.

For employers 

U.S.-based companies must adhere to the labor laws of their employees’ locations, including accessibility standards. One of the best ways to do this is to determine how that country defines disability. The United Nations is a good resource. Their site has a published list that defines the rights of people with disabilities in several countries.

But US employers can't just follow the laws of their employee's nation and disregard domestic accessibility practices. They should comply with national accessibility standards regardless of an employee’s location. This includes maintaining digital accessibility, especially for remote hires.

Employers should also take special care to establish an accessible onboarding process for foreign workers. The onboarding process should be thorough and involved, allowing employees to ask questions or request accommodations they may need.

For employees 

Employees with disabilities working for foreign businesses should keep themselves informed. Though the United States follows specific accessibility standards, other countries observe their own. For example, the U.S. has a universal consensus on the definition of “accessible content.” In contrast, India does not have such a consensus.

As previously mentioned, it is up to the employer to adhere to the labor laws of the employee’s country. In theory, this means that a foreign employer of a person in the U.S. should have to adhere to U.S. accessibility laws. This includes employee benefits such as leave time. If a worker sustains an injury that leads to disability, they should expect their foreign employer to provide a workers comp plan that complies with U.S. requirements.

Closing thoughts

International remote employment is part of the future work landscape. And it's bound to be imperfect during the early phases. As such, the employee needs to know their rights in these situations. It’s also crucial for employers to stay informed about their responsibilities.

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