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In a perfect world, you could hire remote workers without worrying about compliance and payroll across borders. In reality, the complexities of international law make it difficult for businesses to hire workers abroad.

Employers of record (EORs) help businesses hire remote workers internationally, which is something professional employer organizations (PEOs) cannot do. There are a few other differences as well, but understanding those differences can be tricky. Start here to learn what distinguishes an EOR from a PEO, why it matters, and how to figure out what kind of partner your business needs to hire remote talent around the world.

What is the difference between an EOR and a PEO?

Though some use the terms interchangeably, PEOs and EORs have a few important distinctions. PEOs mostly handle HR functions for businesses, while EORs go one step further to employ workers on behalf of their client companies. If you do not own an entity in the country where you want to employ someone, you need an employer of record, not a PEO.

Your employers of record handles the legal employment of your workers in other countries via a service agreement. On paper, the EOR is the employer. In reality, the EOR simply facilitates the paperwork for the sake of compliance. You continue to work with your employees under the EOR the same way you work with all your other employees. In this way, an EOR allows you to employ full-time workers in countries where you do not own a legal entity.

Professional employer organizations lack the ability to employ workers in other countries on your behalf. PEOs typically provide most of the same human resources services as EORs, but without the additional layer of international compliance. PEOs also do not typically offer the local legal guidance that an EOR would.

Your PEO is typically not involved in your employment contracts. A PEO is more of a services provider than a partner for global expansion. An EOR, on the other hand, immediately allows your company to employ workers around the world. Your business, your employee, and your EOR all participate in employment contracts to ensure your employment of international workers is legal.

It is important to remember that an EOR can also provide all the HR services your business needs, such as payroll and benefits management. When you expand your team into new countries, having an all-in-one partner to handle these key processes in addition to your compliance needs can make life much easier.

Which type of partner should you choose?

Say you want to hire a talented worker in another country, like Germany or France, but you don’t have any other employees in that region. Or maybe you do have some employees there, but you're concerned about the quality of the experience your employees receive or your company's compliance with local laws. Where should you turn next?

At Remote, we are intimately familiar with the different challenges companies face when hiring international workers. If you are not sure what kind of help you need to work with global talent, start by considering a few basic questions.

Do you own a legal entity in the country where the employee lives?

To employ workers in a country where you do not own a legal entity, you must use an employer of record. Those are the only two options. If you do not have an entity, you can always open one, although doing so usually costs thousands of dollars and can take several months.

Opening legal entities can be a time-consuming and expensive process, even for large enterprises that already have presences in several countries. Unless you anticipate a major expansion into a specific country, in which case establishing a local entity might make sense for your goals, an EOR is the most logical step forward.

Businesses that do own legal entities in their target countries don’t always have the resources to meet all their employees’ needs. That’s where a PEO comes in. PEOs handle a variety of HR functions to ensure employees can receive their paychecks and access benefits, like health care and paid time off.

Be cautious: Some EORs work through third parties to employ your workers in other countries instead of doing so directly. These EORs do not own their own legal entities, instead choosing to add extra fees on top of the costs charged by their own providers. Not only does this provide a confusing and unpleasant experience for your employees, but it can also get expensive quickly for your company. With little control over costs, these partner-dependent EORs can only offer inconsistent billing to match their inconsistent service.

Remote owns our own legal entities in all countries where we offer services. This guarantees the best experience for your team and the best flat-rate pricing for your company. Learn more about owned-entity vs. partner-dependent EORs on our blog.

In short: If you don’t own a legal entity where your prospective employee works, you need the services of an EOR. If you do own a legal entity but want someone else to manage HR for your employees in the country, you need the services of a PEO.

How many employees do you want to hire?

Most PEOs and many EORs enforce minimum employee counts. Starting local legal entities gets expensive quickly, and companies that provide these services may tell prospective client businesses that they require a minimum employee count to begin a partnership. For startups and small businesses, this barrier usually makes international hiring unreasonably expensive, forcing them to hire only local talent.

Remote, of course, enforces no minimums for our services. If you want to hire a single employee in a single country, we’re always happy to help. We even have special discounts for startups!

Companies looking to open an entity in a new country likely want to hire many employees to work there. In these situations, a local PEO can help manage HR functions. Not all PEOs offer all services, though. For example, some PEOs may only offer payroll-related services and not full benefits management.

Are you hiring full-time workers or contractors?

Technically, you don't need either an EOR or a PEO to work with international contractors. You simply need a compliant contractor management and payment solution. Fortunately, Remote makes it easy to pay and manage contractors all over the world. As the most knowledgable employer of record in the industry, we help companies of all sizes pay contractors all over the world.

What kind of services does Remote offer?

Remote is an employer of record, meaning we help companies employ workers in other countries where those businesses do not own local legal entities. We also offer a global contractor payment and management product, integrated seamlessly into our platform. We only offer our employer of record services in countries where we own legal entities, to provide you and your team with the best experience at the best price. Because contractor payments do not require entities, we can help you pay your contractors all over the world.

To see where Remote offers employer of record services today, visit our Country Explorer. Here you can see our covered countries, view our timeline to open in new places, and learn more about employment laws and taxes all around the world.

Remote does not currently offer PEO services (that is, payroll and benefits services for companies that already own an entity in a country). However, that will soon change. We are working hard to make our best-in-class global payroll solutions available for companies with established entities all over the world.

In the meantime, we would love to help you grow your business by helping you employ workers in other countries. If you're ready to get started, sign up now and start employing in minutes! Have questions? Reach out to our team, and one of our experts will get back to you.