Moderated by Mr. Jeremy Maggs, an engaging segment was held between a panel of three of the top Mobility specialists in the country. The panel comprised of: Nanda Scott, the Group Chief Human Capital Officer at INQ, Menushka Van der Westhuisen, the Head of HR- Africa Hubs at Saint-Gobain and Shargani Pillay, the Remuneration and Benefits Manager at JTI (Japan Tobacco International).
Mr. Maggs moderated the discussion skilfully, with the panel tackling topics from –
- Competing to attract top talent;
- Skills transfer initiatives;
- Impact of legislation changes on business; and
- The responsibilities and obligations of employers.
The panel provided further insights as to their professional experiences with regards to reward and recognition strategies, as well as maintaining staff’s mental health during the hard lockdown period and the rest of the Covid-19 years.
Mental health was a hot topic of discussion, as the trio all concurred that the mental health of their employees is of the utmost importance and key to maintaining and balancing productivity with downtime.
The audience was also given the opportunity to interact with the panel and some surprising alternative ideas were given. One attendant spoke about her own initiatives, and how their company hosted a few sessions per week, where staff were gathered in an online meeting, to take part in stand ups and stretch exercises, as well as yoga sessions.
Furthermore, weekly telephonic check-ins were conducted to ensure that the employees’ personal interaction needs were accommodated for. Surprisingly, the staff engaged more and shared more about themselves in these sessions, compared to the “pre-Covid” stand ups and watercooler talk usually found around the office.
It is no secret that the Covid years were difficult, for some people more so than others. The upshot of the Lockdown measures is that people have become more attuned to the possibilities that remote working offers.
Working out of country and switching between employers is something of a trend, deemed “The Great Resignation”, as more people explore the possibilities of alternate employment. It has become apparent to employers, that in order to retain valuable employees, companies would need to incentivise the staff, to not only stay with the company but stay motivated to work.
Shargani Pillay of JTI discussed her company’s initiative to provide a monetary subsidy to each employee, to allow them to purchase products that would make their life easier at home. Power inverters, to keep laptops alive, was one such purchase that the company motivated. This assisted them to overcome the challenges that loadshedding had posed, to working online.
Another attendee stated that they provided larger annual bonuses, to incentivise their staff not only to retain them, but have them return to the office. This approach widely surprised the panellists and the other conference attendees.
Tax, as a defining barrier for remote work
The panel agreed that with many people seeking alternate mediums of employment in the post-covid years, it has become apparent that with the technological revolution allowing us to work from anywhere in the world, that certain legislations would need to be adhered to, that were never a factor before.
One such issue is that of what is quantified as “work” in terms of South African and world-wide immigration legislation. According to keynote speaker Mr. Ben Makhalemele (Assistant Director of Immigration Services at the Department of Home Affairs), if remote workers are carrying out work functions in South Africa, they would need to obtain a valid work permit to continue working in the country. This, he said, would be a requirement whether or not the company they work for has a presence in South Africa, and regardless of where or how they were remunerated.
Further to this, Tax Consulting SA’s Managing Partner Jerry Botha, added that tax creates an additional layer of complexity to any remote working assignment. He explained that government and legislators should carefully consider that remote workers would be subject to taxation in both the country that they are working in, as well as that of the country where they find themselves resident.
Ordinarily resident tests are carried out in South Africa to determine a specific person’s tax liability. However, the test is 22 years old and does not take into consideration the switching behaviour of remote workers in the country. It will take some time for legal practitioners to work such accommodation into legislature on a global scale.
The conference was the first of its kind in South Africa and was welcomed after many years of tight restrictions on in-person events. The diverse panel of speakers and the presence of the Department of Home Affairs was a catalyst to stimulating deep and insightful discussion amongst industry leaders.
Xpatweb look forward to hosting a follow up event later this year and to keep the conversation going as it ultimately relates to the economic development of this country.