52

I work remotely. I'm soon off abroad for a few months and will continue to work remotely while I'm away, taking the company laptop and possibly other similar hardware with me to perform my duties. The trip is my own choice.

My employer has asked if I could insure the hardware through my travel insurance, saying that he doubts the company policy will cover the USA (we're based in the UK).

As the hardware itself does not belong to me and is needed to fulfil my job (without any clauses covering insurance in my contract), is this something I can reasonably be expected to do?

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Jan 8 at 17:41
  • 7
    As a point of clarification - are they asking you to insure it and they reimburse you? Or are they asking you to insure it and foot the bill yourself. – corsiKa Jan 8 at 20:55
  • 4
    As a side note, I would check whether there are fiscal implications - you will be performing work from another country for an extended amount of time and be remunerated for that, which often comes along with tax liabilities in the country you are currently staying in. – Eleshar Jan 8 at 22:39
  • 9
    More important does your Visa allow you to work in the USA I suspect a tourist one and could get you expelled by the DHS. – Neuromancer Jan 8 at 22:52
  • 2
    @Neuromancer , while off topic, that issue comes up a LOT. It is a very frequent duplicate, and the answer is subtle and problematic. travel.stackexchange.com/a/123350/19233 and travel.stackexchange.com/a/125908/19233 and many others. – Fattie Jan 9 at 16:50
34

It's a tricky issue.

  1. The "overseas" aspect is not relevant. The issue at hand is just, "Do you have to pay for accidental damage to equipment the company supplied." This would apply whether you broke it in your house, commuting, in Patagonia or indeed even at the office.

  2. My personal view is that the company just has to suck it up and pay.

  3. Particularly in the wildly-paid, go-go world of software today ... it's hard to see that you can make a programmer do .. well, anything.

  4. For me personally (only one example) if one of the folks smashes something or loses it, I just sigh, click to Amazon, and hand out another one :/ What are we gonna do, fire them and spend 3 months / 50k finding another expert in some obscure field?

  5. Then again - some few companies have the explicit policy: "Wow! We give you $2800 a year against equipment costs!" (You see this sort of blather in a few job ads on OS, from companies trying to hire programmers cheap.) In that case, such a company would probably assert that "that's it"... if you lose the 2500 bucks worth of gear for that year, it's on you to dig up another laptop. However: Even at such an "explicit-yearly-budget" company, unfortunately for employers, points 3 and 4 probably apply. What are you going to do - "save $1200" and hence annoy every programmer there?

So one opinion, basically: "they should pay in almost all cases" as a general answer.

That being said,

  1. In in this particular exact case. It sounds like you're getting a fairly "sweet deal" from your employer - they are letting you work remotely while you fool around in the US? If so .. my gut instinct is to "suck it up" and pay for it yourself.

Why? You want to avoid being in a position where you "owe them a favor on a minor point"; you want to avoid looking like you "Got every last dime on a minor point even in a situation where they were doing you a big courtesy".

NOTE: Put it in writing that as a courtesy you will be insuring the laptop when overseas, and do so.

(TBC: if however the company is "sending you to" the US on a project - then, flooglestick 'em. Of course, obviously, they have to completely pay the insurance/etc. End of story.)


Even more information!

"It's my own choice and they've said they'd have no problem with it (since I work remotely anyway)"

One immediate fact:

  • As a kind of broad general rule, if you work remotely then you pay for your own gear. This is not a firm rule, but it's a general rule.

And then,

Looking again at point (6). I have to say, I would treat this as a point 6 situation. They are being understanding taking the view that "they don't have a problem with it". {Aside: let's see what they say in a month when they realize the time zone issues.} Just one man's opinion then, you should "go the extra mile" and politely cover the danger yourself.

NOTE: Put it in writing that as a courtesy you will be insuring the laptop when overseas, and do so.

  • 2
    Not sure why you're getting downvoted but I tend to agree with you. If they were sending me then I'd expect them to pay. In this case it's my choice to go abroad, but I'm working remotely here anyway so it likely boils down to a policy that only covers the UK. I suppose I'll look into what extra costs I'd incur to add this to my travel insurance (and possibly a business option for that as @PeteCon suggested). And definitely ALWAYS getting these kind of things in writing – GroomedGorilla Jan 7 at 15:18
  • 5
    It sounds like everyone's on the same page; I'm the #1 "worker's rights" advocate on the site, but unusually here, I do see some value in you "sucking it up" . . . it's a chance for you to overtly and explicitly make it clear that you're "going the extra distance" (on a minor point) since they've done a mild favor for you. Never get in a situation where "you owe them one!" – Fattie Jan 7 at 15:21
  • 2
    Number 6 makes perfect sense. And they could always do what some people do, just smile, nod, agree to do whatever, and then ignore it. – Kilisi Jan 7 at 19:12
  • 4
    Why does „work remotely“ imply „paying for your own gear“? In fact I know many company policies strictly forbidding to work with personal computing equipment. (In a home office scenario you might need to pay for some stuff yourself) – eckes Jan 8 at 10:08
  • 8
    I googled "flooglestick" and it only points here. – D Duck Jan 8 at 19:54
79

Firstly, check if your travel insurance covers business, or if it's just a tourist coverage.

Secondly... I'd be a bit suspicious of any company that requires me to insure their own property (you can't buy insurance on an item that you don't have any financial interest in), or any company that can't self-insure something as cheap as a laptop (even a Macbook Pro is pretty cheap in the scheme of things).

  • 11
    I don't think travel insurance covers your stuff, just the cost of your trip should you get sick or there be some adverse situation where you are visiting that resulted in flights or hotel cancellations. Your stuff is usually covered under your own insurance as part of your renters or homeowners coverage. That usually has a deductible and if home, will likely be higher than the cost of the computer. The employer is really saying here if something happens to our stuff while you are traveling for pleasure it's on you to replace. – Bill Leeper Jan 7 at 18:47
  • 4
    @BillLeeper My travel insurance does cover items getting lost/damaged while travelling. My homeowners coverage does not. – Abigail Jan 7 at 22:27
  • 14
    This is an unusual situation since the trip is not a business trip but a personal trip the OP wants to work on, presumably to avoid taking the time as annual leave - the employer could equally say "if you don't take out insurance, you need to leave your laptop at home and take the time as annual leave instead". Which is best is left for the OP to decide... – Moo Jan 8 at 5:34
  • 18
    Please note that trip was OP idea, not company. Company insured hardware for domestic use and domestic use is what it wants from OP. Company is doing him a favor it does not need to do and only ask him to make sure it won't cost them. What's suspicious about that? – Mołot Jan 8 at 11:06
  • 3
    @corsiKa Fewer heads isn't the whole story. In a large company, the average rate at which things happen is probably a meaningful measure; in a small company, things are much more stochastic. In a large company, you might need to replace, say, ten stolen laptops a year on average, which is a small cost averaged over all employees and it's staggeringly unlikely that you'll have to replace 100 stolen laptops in one year. But in a small company, the number of stolen laptops per year will be either zero or one and the years where it's "one" are way more than average and a big-ish cost per employee. – David Richerby Jan 8 at 11:17
54

You have a little bit outside the box problem here.

  1. You are voluntarily traveling, this is not for business, but yourself.
  2. The company wants to minimize the obvious risk of losing their equipment while you are jetting around the world (their view, not yours)
  3. Any insurance YOU buy is NOT going to cover something you do not own, period.

You need to have a conversation with your manager. Indicate that since the equipment belongs to the company and not yourself, you will be unable to obtain any insurance coverage for it on your own. If they would like to obtain additional coverage than what they normally carry, then you could have a discussion about having that additional expense reduced from your salary.

In summary this is how I see it.

  1. You are voluntarily making this trip, it is not business related or directed.
  2. The company owns the equipment though, so they need to make whatever arrangements they see fit.
  3. You will have to decide if you can accept what they come up with or work out your own plan.

Additionally if you were to buy your own equipment and use it for work while traveling you would need to additionally indicate with the insurance company that you are using this equipment for work, they may reject a claim at some point if you did not indicate this.

This will NOT be travel insurance, that is for if you get sick etc. and have to cancel your trip. You need to look into a 'personal articles' policy (US terminology your local agent can help you determine the right UK coverage). This is insurance that covers a specific item. I have it on several computers, my wife's expensive jewelry and a few other items easily lost, damaged, or stolen.

  • 53
    "Any insurance YOU buy is NOT going to cover something you do not own, period.". That seems too general a statement. I buy car insurance for rental cars and I certainly don't own the car (and I don't have to use the insurance the renting agency offers, so it's not just a deal with the company itself). Now whether there exists any insurance for this particular case is a different question, but there's certainly no point blank reason for such a insurance impossible to exist. – Voo Jan 7 at 20:23
  • 6
    In the UK travel insurance routinely covers personal effects taken with you, at least for theft or loss outside your control. – patstew Jan 7 at 20:36
  • 12
    @Voo: Just checked this for my country (Belgium), and I can buy (extra) insurance that will also cover goods that I rent or borrow (as a private person, so goods from my employer are probably not covered). So it's certainly not impossible. – Jan Fabry Jan 7 at 21:14
  • 3
    @Bill No I don't necessarily buy car insurance from the rental company and it still works just fine. And sure the insurance company only pays the parts that aren't covered by other insurance, but that's quite common for many other insurances as well (I have a national and a private health insurance - is my private insurance now not an insurance any more because it only covers the parts that are not paid by the national one?). And as Jan mentioned he already found examples of being able to insure non-owned property, so clearly this is not just academic. – Voo Jan 7 at 21:48
  • 4
    @Mołot Liability insurance doesn't cover things you don't own: it covers your liability (i.e., the fact that you now owe somebody money for breaking their stuff). So I think the claim in the answer is technically true. However, as you explain, it's unhelpful: because liability insurance exists, it is possible to do something that's functionally equivalent to insuring somebody else's stuff. – David Richerby Jan 8 at 11:21
6

Given that you already work remotely and the equipment is not already insured, you should not be required to insure this equipment just because you are going to a separate remote location.

If the company would like their equipment insured, they should do it themselves.

  • 3
    That would be my preferred reasoning, but they're claiming their policy doesn't cover the US. I'm looking into what the added cost of adding it to my travel insurance would be. If it's not significant I think I'll "suck it up" and save the hassle of owing them anything – GroomedGorilla Jan 7 at 17:10
  • The equipment may be insured, but the policy only covers it in the uk. – Andy Jan 8 at 1:31
  • 2
    @Andy It may even go further than that - it may cover the equipment while on a business trip to the US, but this isn't a business trip... – Moo Jan 8 at 5:41
  • 1
    This answer misses the point that more comprehensive insurance costs the employer more money. They're surely within their rights to say "The laptop is only insured for X, Y and Z: if you want to do A, B or C, you're liable, because we're not paying the extra." – David Richerby Jan 8 at 11:27
  • @DavidRicherby I don't think they're within their rights to say that. An employer can't make employees liable for things just by saying they are. However, the employer can say that you may not use company equipment for A, B, or C and, if you do, they can fire you. – David Schwartz Jan 8 at 20:57
3

If it's a work trip (i.e. they are sending you) then it's their responsibility, if it's a personal trip it's reasonable to expect the employee to cover it.

  • While this is 1000% reasonable, the blunt reality is programmers at the moment have all the power. One has to suck up to them all the time, and give them "red smarties," and so on. (Err, that's "red M&Ms" in the US right?) So, it's a tough one. – Fattie Jan 7 at 15:05
  • 1
    If I'm taking a work laptop on a personal trip, it's because I expect to do work on it. It's work-related, so the employer should cover it. – Nuclear Wang Jan 7 at 15:12
  • 4
    @NuclearWang I disagree that it's work related - the OP is obviously trying to avoid using annual leave, so the trip itself obviously isn't work related, and the fact that they will be working on it is their own decision, not that of their employers. OP should pay for the additional insurance required. If it were an employer mandated trip, or if the employer required the op to work, then I would agree with you, but that's not the case. – Moo Jan 8 at 5:38
  • They're not sending him. They are very (very!) generously letting him go live in another country (6-10 time zones away) for a few months, but, while continuing with the team presumably full-time. The question does not relate to "being sent overseas on a job". I'm the #1 "worker's rights" writer on here, but in this case there is a danger of him "owing them a favour" which you must never, ever let happen - ever. – Fattie Jan 9 at 13:04
2

I do not have sufficient reputation to comment, hence writing this as an answer.

You say you work remotely. Does your contract explicitly mention this? If yes, does it impose any limitations to the place you can work remotely from (e.g. to the UK)?

If no, then I would see the responsibility of getting insurance at your employers side.

  • It technically states that I should be working in the UK, despite the fact that we have no office and all other employees work in other towns/countries. . . it's not the best thought-out contract – GroomedGorilla Jan 9 at 15:45
1

TL;DR

Yes, the employer can have good reasons and might request you for such additional insurance. However it's best to check all details first.

Full answer

Let me address this question from a perspective of a person with some experience in insurance industry.

There are two factors to consider. In general you are usually liable for the property of your employer however this is usually limited to some degree. So if you leave your laptop in a car and it gets stolen you may be liable for its loss as this is in general something you should not do. On the other hand if you accidentally drop the laptop at your home it's usually insured and it the insurer takes a liability on this.

Yet the insurance has its limitations and details depends on the insurer's product and employers choice (and for large companies negotiations). If the company is based in UK and doesn't expect their employees to travel outside the country the company may buy an insurance limited to UK only (that in general will be cheaper). On the other hand they may as well have coverage for trips abroad, albeit it can be limited, e.g. to EU/Europe only or to business trips ordered by the employer only. As you can see both cases wouldn't apply if your laptop gets damaged in the US which essentially means the liability is on you then.

So yes, the employer might request you to additionally insure the laptop.

What I would suggest is to ask the employer to check details about the insurance coverage they have. They probably have some specific person responsible for that inside a company and/or a broker who is responsible for handling their insurances. Ask about two things - to check if your specific situation is covered and what should be the conditions of the insurance to match those normally covered cases. If it is covered you're clear and good to go.

If not, you should ask if it is possible to extend the insurance for the laptop and on what cost (to be covered by you as a reimbursement to your company, you'll probably need sign some extra agreement on it).

Then go to insurance company/agent and ask if it is possible to include such insurance. It can be already included (unlikely), an additionally paid extension or a separate insurance. If the insurer of your choice doesn't have such option, ask other insurers as well.

Now you have a clear situation and know the costs. It should be up to you to choose one, however check with your employer if they are happy with your choice of insurer. There may be some crappy companies as well and employer may say they won't accept such insurance.

Another approach is that you agree to cover the loss if the equipment is lost or damaged and it's not covered by the insurance. You have probably agreed to that already but if not then again - there should be some formal agreement. Now unless the agreement clearly says you are obliged to insure the equipment (two sides can agree on almost anything) it's up to your discretion if you look for some kind of insurance to cover that risk or you just accept the risk on yourself.

-1

First, understand that you are asking your employer for an accommodation. You wish to travel to the US and you wish to be able to work while you're traveling.

You won't be able to get insurance. You do not own the property and you, as an employee, are not liable to your employer for theft of the employer's property. So you don't have an insurable interest.

There are really only a few options:

  1. You could decide not to take the trip.
  2. You could agree to cover any losses to your employer's property during the trip.
  3. You could get your employer to purchase insurance that covers their property in the US at their own expense.
  4. You could get your employer to purchase insurance that covers their property at your own expense.
  5. You could get your employer to agree to take the risk that the property is stolen and they have to replace it.

What option you take is open to negotiation between you and your employer.

Normally, I would say that your employer should just accept this risk as a cost of doing business. But here, they are offering you a generous accommodation, allowing you to work while you travel so that you don't lose pay. I can tell you from experience that remote employees generally get less work done while they're traveling because they spend more time sightseeing and so on so having an employee traveling for months might be something they're accepting only grudgingly. Keep this in mind as you negotiate. It may help to reassure them that you will be responsive to work needs.

  • The inability to get insurance is a comment others have made,and it's not true - the OP can indeed cover the laptop even if they do not own it. – Moo Jan 9 at 4:39
  • If he always works remotely, then how are they being accommodating by "allowing" him to travel? For all they know, he travels all the time. – RemcoGerlich Jan 9 at 13:40
  • @Moo No, he cannot. You have to have an insurable interest in something to get insurance for it. Even if he did obtain insurance, he wouldn't successfully be able to file a claim because he would have no liability. An insurable interest is the difference between insurance and gambling. You cannot insure against someone else's loss. I suppose he could obtain insurance to satisfy his employer, but then if the property was stolen, his claim would be rejected since he won't have actually lost anything. – David Schwartz Jan 9 at 16:37
  • @RemcoGerlich I don't know the specifics of his arrangement with his employer, but usually such arrangements don't allow the employee unlimited freedom to work from wherever they want. It's almost certain that a change of country would have to be negotiated. – David Schwartz Jan 9 at 16:39
-1

I disagree with the 'programmers are precious, suck it up' philosophy. The OP's employer is already being gracious about letting them roam around all over the world. There's no harm in being gracious back and offering to reimburse them for the extra cost of insurance. Why alienate people gratuitously? The programmers are precious situation could change more rapidly than you can imagine, and this kind of attitude will be remembered if a cull is needed.

  • 2
    "you can only insure something that you own". Bill Leeper made the same claim, but clearly you can get car insurance for a rental car from many insurance companies (not just the rental agency) and Jan Fabry found insurance in Belgium for privately rented equipment. So that assumption does not seem to be based in fact. Now whether such an insurance actually exists I have no idea, but evidence suggests that it's certainly possible. – Voo Jan 7 at 22:37
  • 5
    You can trivially insure something you don't own but have responsibility for - I worked for a UK insurance broker web based insurance quote engines, and this is one of the things we sold insurance for. – Moo Jan 8 at 5:40
  • @Voo You are wrong. Both of your supposed counter-examples are liability insurance. You own your liability. In the case we are talking about here, liability insurance won't work because an employee has no liability for theft of property belonging to their employer except at least in cases of recklessness. (And, Moo, you are not ensuring the thing you don't own, you're ensuring against your own liability, which you do own. It's your liability.) – David Schwartz Jan 8 at 21:00
  • @David Oh quite agreed that it's liability insurance. So I guess the technicality here is that you insure the liability that you own and not the thing itself, fair enough. In practice the result is the same though. I don't see why "an employee has no liability for theft of property belonging to their employer" would have to be an universal truth. Certainly a strange arrangement, but is there anything in UK law that would make it actually impossible? – Voo Jan 8 at 22:03
  • @Voo Almost every jurisdiction I know of has laws prohibiting such arrangements. In my jurisdiction, for example, an employer cannot make an employee liable for loss or damage to the employer's property except in cases of "gross negligence, or dishonest or willful act" of the employee. So liability insurance won't help here as the employee is extremely unlikely to have any actual liability. – David Schwartz Jan 8 at 23:33

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.