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Remote work a critical growth strategy for Canadian firms: report


As the Canadian economy claws its way back from the pandemic-induced slowdowns, many businesses are coming face-to-face with a critical challenge — recruiting and retaining qualified employees.

According to a new research report from PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada entitled, “Remote and cross-border employment trends – is Canada ready?” remote work – which has been the lifeline allowing many businesses to continue operating throughout the pandemic – should now be looked at by business and government leaders as a key element in any growth strategy for Canadian companies.

This is especially true for industries such as technology and financial services where skilled labour is even more difficult to find, according to a press release.

“We have now seen that businesses can function and thrive with a remote workforce,” said Michael Dobner, national leader of economics and policy at PwC Canada.

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“Embracing the option of remote and cross-border work as a permanent feature of human resources strategies has the potential to open up new talent pools — both within Canada and internationally, as well as making workplaces more equitable.”

While this solution seems simple on the surface, current rules and regulations mean that it will require significant additional administrative effort by employers and their payroll teams.

Nevertheless, PwC believes that the risks and opportunity-costs of not engaging in remote and cross-border work arrangements outweigh the expected administrative costs.

Remote employment not only provides businesses with access to a much deeper talent pool, it can also keep and engage current staff and promote more equitable workplaces.

Benefits, complexities of cross-border work 

The benefits of remote and cross-border work are clear, according to PwC.

Both provide employers with access to a more extensive and more diverse talent pool, and help retain and engage current staff as flexible working arrangements are viewed more than ever as a ‘must have’ for employees.

And it’s not just businesses that benefit. If cross-border work becomes more widely accepted and easier to navigate, Canadian workers will have access to more job opportunities without the need to uproot their entire lives.

Additionally, both remote and cross-border work support more equitable access to meaningful and well-compensated jobs by increasing access for workers with disabilities and those with child or elder-care obligations.

Businesses in Canada are already keenly aware of the benefits of remote and cross-border hiring.

Sixty-five per cent of Canadian employers interviewed as part of the report  are currently engaged in, or open to, hiring remote employees across Canada, and one-third are open to, or currently engaged in, international remote hiring.

However, barriers still exist. The report finds that legislative and regulatory complexities related to payroll, including compliance and tax obligations, contribute to barriers that are challenging for some to overcome.

“This provides an opportunity for the government to revisit policies and procedures that may not align with the remote-work paradigm,” stated Kim White, a tax partner specializing in global mobility services at PwC Canada.

“Making it less administratively burdensome for businesses to hire remote talent, and for workers to be hired across Canada and abroad could help to promote the remote working model. For example, the majority of our interviewees expressed a desire for simplifying or eliminating the T2200 tax form for claiming home office expenses, which would save significant time that could be better spent on higher-value tasks.”

At the same time, to help address current legislative and regulatory challenges, payroll professionals need to be tasked with working in partnership with legal and HR professionals to develop strategies that enable remote and cross-border hiring.

The researchers suggest that payroll should be involved early in the strategic decision-making process so that tax and other withholdings, reporting requirements, and payroll implications are understood and planned for.

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