Teleworking from Spain: is it allowed, what are the consequences and how do you get started?

In times of corona, we were forced to telecommute en masse. Mostly at home, but creatives got to work from their second residence in Spain. Why not? “There is no law that stipulates that Belgians must work in Belgium,” says Stijn Baert, professor of labor economics. “Besides: a happy employee is a productive employee.”

Especially this spring, more Belgians went looking for a second home under the Spanish sun, with home office and fast internet. On VRT NWS, Nick Roelstraete, who regularly works from his vacation home on the Costa del Sol, is one of the witnesses: “Fast Internet is also available in Spain. I can do my work perfectly well there. More than that, I work harder in Spain than in Belgium.” The location motivates the man. On a clear day, he sees the Moroccan coast shining across the Mediterranean. “We have over 300 days of sunshine a year. There are worse places to work.”

Although the corona crisis is hopefully simmering toward its end, telecommuting will continue to be prevalent. Therefore, not necessarily full-time, but at least partially. A laptop and a decent internet connection is all you need for a lot of jobs. And say it yourself, it sounds particularly enticing. Fly towards the Costa’s on Wednesday, work for a few days with a view of the sea, go for a terrace or a nice walk on the beach after work, then enjoy the weekend and be back in the office on Monday or Tuesday for that important meeting. We would already be whistling at work for less.

As a Belgian, can you telecommute from Spain?

Teleworking does not necessarily have to be done from home. It means no more than “working remotely. In fact, the official name is “place- and time-independent work. If you have an agreement with your employer that you can telecommute x number of days per week/month, then nothing should stop you from doing so from Spain. “There is no law that stipulates that Belgians must work in Belgium,” says Stijn Baert, professor of labor economics, in Het Nieuwsblad. “With location and time-independent work, the employee chooses where and when to work, subject to agreements on accessibility. Whether you do that at home in Belgium, or from a country house in Spain: it doesn’t matter.”

Please note that telecommuting is not a right. Your employer can still decide to drum you up every day at the workplace. So it’s mainly a matter of convincing your employer to leave enough room for telecommuting. By promising, say, that the salty sea air and sunshine won’t nibble away at your performance. “A happy employee is a good employee,” Baert believes. “Teleworking from Spain can be good for productivity. It’s just that over the years some bosses have become addicted to control: they want their people close to them, to see if they are working hard enough. When bosses allow their staff to telecommute, from Spain for example, they say as much as: we are confident that you are not on the beach when you are expected to be in front of your computer screen.”

Although, of course, you can sit on the beach behind your computer screen!

What about taxes? And with the insurance?

Under the workfare principle, you normally pay taxes and social security in the country where you work. But that rule does not apply from day 1. If you do not work abroad continuously for more than 183 days (six months), you will remain taxed in Belgium. That’s the case for most sporadic telecommuters in Spain, who descend toward the sun a few times a year. If you want to work permanently from Spain, then things change. Although there is still the option of remaining covered by Belgian social security for a longer period via secondment. The latter does involve an administrative burden for your employer.

With your European Health Insurance Card, you benefit from medically necessary care during a temporary stay in another EU country. “But not all procedures are automatically covered,” says Elke Brees, SD Worx international employment consultant. She therefore recommends working with your employer to review your workplace accident, hospitalization and travel and car insurance policies. In any case, it pays to put down on paper where you work from home, that way you have proof in case of a possible workplace accident. Charlotte Thijs, an employment law attorney at Acerta, recommends taking a close look at your employment contract. “If you have a company car, check whether you can drive it to Spain. If you are an employee who wants to work abroad not from Belgium, but from your vacation home, you must observe a number of obligations.”



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