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After months of communication issues I recently started a full-time remote job. As I'm moving back to Europe, HR is now telling me I would become unemployed until they can get me a new contract. How can I avoid temporary unemployment and resolve these communication issues?

I have started a job about a month ago, and I am relocating in a couple of weeks. HR has called me today to make sure I was aware of how expensive it was for them that I was moving (USDXX)..

Background: In early summer, I was offered a position at a great company I really wanted to work for. It's a growing company active in the US and Europe and I applied for a remote position as I currently live in South Africa. They told me it would take a couple of weeks to draw up the contract. They mentioned in the interviews they wanted to hire someone who'd stick around for a few years, since they didn't think if you moved jobs you could really add much to the project, which I agreed with.

HR came up with a consultant contract for a year with no benefits whatsoever about a week after the interview. I responded that was not what I had been looking for an HR said they needed a couple of days to clear it out. They came back and said they were doing some legal work on their side to hire me as an employee. I asked for an update in August and September where they were "almost ready" again and had already turned down another offer.

In October they sent me the first piece of paperwork and said I'd start soon. They went ahead and paid me half a month, then sent me another contract, to start on the 1st of November telling me they would even out the salary.

When I started working, I mentioned I was about to relocate to Europe, which was never an issue for previous employers. I got some forms to fill up with legal stuff, address, account, etc.. which I did as fast as I could to make it easy for them and help the process. I'm a EU national and authorised to work both in the EU and where I currently reside, out of the EU.

Yet, I received a call about how expensive and tedious the process is and that I won't be able to work until I sign a new contract. But as they don't know when that will be ready I would become unemployed on the day I relocate. The money will go to an external firm that handled my previous contract which now has to be redone.

I have never been in a situation any similar to this. I don't understand what is going on... and I don't know how to face this. This was not my first remote position, normally the hiring part goes really fast, you get a remote full-time contract and done.

I mentioned to my team lead It could take a while to come back to the team, which he was apparently aware of. He mentioned how bad HR had been during the year but never mentioned any of this.

I don't want to be left hanging for months on end with no communication waiting for a contract to appear. I don't want to be seen as a burden, but I was transparent about the relocation which I never saw as a potential issue.

How can I best approach my communication with this company?

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  • Thanks for the update, to add to that: are you after advice on how to communicate with this company? Are you considering restarting a job search and walking away? Is your team lead not going to bat for you against HR when it sounds like he could lose someone new to the job over some administrative issue? – Lilienthal Nov 30 '20 at 20:16
  • Since you mention USD the company employing you would be in the US I assume? (if it was EU based it could affect their tax situation as well as yours) – Lilienthal Nov 30 '20 at 20:18
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    Yes, I do want advice on how to communicate. I don't think my communication skills are bad, but I feel that communication has never been good in all this process. I don't know if to restart a search, they are a great company, but I waited for 4 months with barely any news. All of this could have come up in a simple conversation... is HR going to continue to be an issue? And I don't know, he has a lot on his plate, and anyone is rehirable. – Blurighto Nov 30 '20 at 20:19
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    Am I right in thinking you blindsided them with the relocation? If they had to do a lot of research into labour and contract laws for South Africa it would be understandable that they're upset. (The delays on their end are a separate matter.) FYI: I'm editing your question a bit for length. EDIT: never mind, just reread that section. :) – Lilienthal Nov 30 '20 at 20:25
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    Thank you for all the additional input OP. I'll keep these comments up for now as they contain additional details now that the question has been trimmed a bit for length. I've dropped an answer below based on how I see this. I hope others can provide useful input for you as well since this is a peculiar situation to be in, though I understand that for you it's mainly a really crappy one. Hope you can get this resolved! – Lilienthal Nov 30 '20 at 20:51
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The advantage you have right now is that you are a colleague to this HR department and aren't coming at this as an outsider. That means you get some ability to "stalk" HR and get some answers. And that's what you need to do right now.

The comments from HR about the cost of this relocation or new contract are rather unprofessional. HR or the payroll team is there to assist the employees with matters like this. Any cost in working hours or other miscellaneous costs they incur are simply a cost of doing business when you hire humans.

Now, depending on how early or late you communicated your relocation to Europe, there are some things you maybe could have done better. Your physical location in the world could impact the kind of administrative red tape HR has to go through in getting you a contract as an employee.

But the problem here is one of transparency. HR clearly dropped the ball in not communicating clearly with you and taking way too long to get back to you. If they ran into legal or fiscal issues because they had to draft an employee contract for you rather than a simpler contractor agreement, that's understandable but they should have told you. If they're delaying a contract by months they need to be apologetic and keep you in the loop.

But that probably goes both ways. If I place myself in HR's shoes and had to spend a long time figuring out a way to get a contract together for you and you surprise me with an international relocation late into this process, I might be a bit miffed as well. But even so, they should have explained to you how this could complicate your contract and what that would mean with regards to remaining employed. Claiming that you're costing them USD 1000 extra isn't helpful. It's also a really small sum in a hiring context... The average cost to hire someone varies but is often put at around 4000 USD.

So now what? You need to "cut through the bullshit" as it were. Get on a call with the HR person handling your case or escalate to their manager. Explain the context and your very valid reasons for moving. Apologise for not communicating your relocation earlier (even if you don't feel you should, this helps bring people around). Explain that your priority is remaining employed throughout this time and making things as easy on them as you can. Figure out together how you can proceed. Keep engaging with them for as long as it takes to find a way out everyone is happy with.

In this instance I would recommend asking if you could use a temporary contractor / consultant contract until a new employee contract is finalised. Perhaps you'd lose some benefits for a while but you'd stay employed. To me that would be the quickest fix here.

But quick fixes aside, the problem here is just a string of communication issues. Bypass all of them by communicating clearly with HR, preferable over a call, and figuring out together how you can resolve this. That's the best way forward.

Ordinarily I would encourage you to lean very heavily on your manager. You can still do so but the fact that he wasn't extremely shocked that you'd be temporarily unemployed over this is a worrying sign that he's not too effective at managing people. I would still set up a conversation with him with the same goal: figuring out what you can do to remain employed while this admin nightmare is resolved.


Small Update: since you clarified that the USD 1000 will go to an external party handling the contract, that kind of makes more sense but it's still petty to highlight that. Hiring is expensive. It does give you a good opening for a conversation though. Say something along the lines of this:

Of course I'm really sorry that the company will need to pay this fee again, but given the local unrest here and with the safety of my new family in mind I felt I had no other choice. We only recently figured out how we could go about returning to Europe ourselves so I understand how complex this could be. I really just want to make sure I can remain part of the firm and not have to temporarily abandon my team. How can we make that happen?

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  • I do understand that they had to go and learn how to hire remote to hire me and other's who started with me. That was a company decision but it was probably heavy on them. However, they hired us through an external company.. that does all the paperwork and takes care of all the legal bits. Which is partly why I thought it would be smooth. They already requested all they needed. I also do think it's worrying that not only he knew, but sounded.. ok, though I barely know him and could just be remaining calm as HR is a known issue in the company. I will do that, and cut through the bullshit, – Blurighto Nov 30 '20 at 20:54
  • In a calm polite manner, and I'll apologise about all of this. Thanks very much – Blurighto Nov 30 '20 at 20:55
  • @OP Aha. Well that's a new element. So why is this external company no longer involved? If they are, the same advice applies though: call them and figure out what went wrong and what you need to do to keep things moving (and remain employed). Best of luck! – Lilienthal Nov 30 '20 at 20:56
  • @OP While I do appreciate your acceptance of my answer, I want to point out that we generally encourage you not to accept an answer too quickly. You may want to give other people a chance to submit an answer as well and accepting early tends to discourage other people from replying. You are free to change or remove the mark-as-answered tick at any time and I strongly recommend you do so now and wait one or two days before evaluating the answers you received and accepting the one that you found the most helpful. Of course, best to follow up with HR right now though. :) – Lilienthal Nov 30 '20 at 20:58
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    That $1000 is probably the per country setup fee for that external agency, the usual model is they charge a setup fee and then $x/year (can be like $15k/year) to handle the remote employee. – mxyzplk Nov 30 '20 at 22:22
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I suspect that the problem is that the company has separate subsidiaries in the US and the EU. If you want to move to the EU, then they will be taking you off the payroll of the US company, and re-hiring you at the EU one.

This involves a lot of paperwork, and will have involved a lot of staff time going through the recruitment process.

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  • They did not have any recruiter in the middle. It went through the company directly. And I didn't ask for a full-position. I did enquire about the fact I had been promised one thing and given another. The rest unfolded. – Blurighto Dec 1 '20 at 16:52
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For a company X to pay contractors Y (or to pay any invoice, whatsoever, whether for toilet tissue, aircraft parts, or pencils) here is the total procedure:

  • X sends money to Y.

If there is some issue beyond this, there must be some bizarre circumstances.

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    Those "bizarre circumstances" would be the laws in various EU countries regarding falsely classifying an employee as an independent contractor and the legal obligations to pay into social security for employees residing in those countries. – Philipp Dec 1 '20 at 16:40

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