How To Expand Your Businesses into the UK

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Atlas Team

Atlas helps innovative companies like yours to expand, onboard, manage and pay international teams in 160+ countries.

Published: 23 Feb 2024

If you’re looking to take your company global, you may want to consider expanding into the United Kingdom. The UK, comprising England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, is more than just a gateway to European markets—it’s a multicultural hub boasting many benefits for business owners. In fact, in the World Bank’s most recent Doing Business report, the UK clocked in as the eighth best country for ease of doing business.  

That said, like all global expansion projects, compliance can be a hidden challenge. There are different labor laws, tax laws, visa processes, and cultural expectations. An Employer of Record (EOR) can streamline the process, but there are a few things to know before expanding your workforce into the UK.

Why Expand into the UK? 

There’s a reason businesses often launch international operations in the UK. It’s currently a leading member of global organizations like the G7, G20, and NATO, and it also maintains strong ties with both the United States and Asia. It’s one of the world’s largest economies and has a relatively high purchasing power (even in spite of recent setbacks from rising energy costs). Some of the many benefits include: 

  • Few language and cultural barriers: The UK has few language and cultural barriers, especially for westernized, English-speaking countries. English is the primary language, but the UK is also home to a large multicultural population. This creates a need for diverse goods and services, especially international offerings. 

  • Favorable time zone: The UK is in close proximity to continental Europe, but it also has overlapping business hours with Asia and the Americas (including the financial markets). This makes it easier for worksite employees to liaise with international teams. 

  • Easy access to European markets: Though the UK completed their exit from the European Union in 2020, they’ve still maintained strong trade ties. Expansion into the UK gives companies access to nearly 450 million consumers in Europe. 

  • Highly skilled talent pool: The UK workforce makes up 78% of the population. It’s also home to some of the most renowned universities on the planet.  

  • Government incentives: The UK has various incentives for business owners and investors. This includes tax relief for research and development projects and businesses located in certain investment zones. 

  • Competitive tax rates for the region: The UK has a 25% tax rate for all resident and international companies, which is the lowest in the G7. It also has relatively low capital gains taxes. 

Top Industries in the UK 

The United Kingdom has a diverse and resilient economy. Services make up the largest segment, particularly financial services. This is no surprise considering London is a global financial hub renowned for banking, insurance, and investment management. For this reason, the UK is often a go-to choice for financial service companies when they first launch international operations. 

The UK’s information technology (IT) sector also continues to thrive—leaving a large opportunity for new businesses to grow, from fintech to biotechnology. According to IBISWord, the biotech sector grew 6.5% in 2023, with an average 9% year-over-year growth since 2018. The pharmaceutical sector also showed significant gains in 2023. 

What to Expect with UK Expansion 

Like all regions, the UK has its own particular employment laws and tax requirements. Despite the relative ease of doing business and market-friendly tax policies, the UK tax system is notably complex. Even for small businesses, preparing taxes can be a significant burden and compliance is of the utmost importance. Many international companies use an Employer of Record (EOR) like Atlas to help ease the burden of employment-related taxes and ensure compliance. An EOR acts as the legal employer, so you don’t have to handle employment-related red tape that’s outside your area of expertise.  

Other nuances of UK expansion include: 

  • Obtaining licenses and visas: You’ll need to register your company, open a UK bank account, and obtain a sponsor license to employ international employees. International employees require a visa, and there are several different types which typically take around three weeks to process.  

  • Insurances: At a minimum, businesses in the UK are required to have employer’s liability insurance. This is a legal requirement, but you may also want to consider other policies. One of the most popular is public liability insurance, which helps cover claims made from accidental injury or property damage to a member of the public. Professional indemnity insurance also helps protect you if a client suffers financial loss as a result of your work. 

  • Employment contracts: Employers must provide a principal statement for all job offers that outlines various aspects of the job including start date, end date, compensation, work hours, overtime expectations, leave, benefits, training, and frequency of payment. 

  • Required leave: Eligible employees in the UK are entitled to 28 days of sick leave before a doctor’s note is required and 28 days of paid annual leave. Female employees are entitled to a total of 52 weeks of maternity leave, while male employees receive one to two weeks of paternity leave. Of course, there are various stipulations, along with standard public holidays.  

  • Employment termination: The notice period for employee dismissal is typically written in the employment contract. If there’s no agreement, statutory minimum notice periods apply: 

  • For an employee of less than two years, you’ll need to give no less than one week of notice.  

  • For an employee who’s worked between two and 12 years, you’ll need to give no less than one week of notice for each year of continuous employment.  

  • If your employee has worked 12 or more years, you should give no less than 12 weeks of notice. 

  • You do not have to give notice if the employee has been working for less than a month unless the employment contract says otherwise.   

  • Health insurance: Though the UK has universal healthcare, competitive employment benefits often include supplementary private medical insurance.  

Streamline UK Expansion With An EOR 

Many businesses choose to use an Employer of Record to help with their global expansion. An EOR will handle legal HR duties like onboarding international work site employees, as well as maintaining local compliance, which means it’s a quick way to launch your teams internationally and mitigate risk.  This is especially important in areas with complex tax laws like the UK. Benefits of EORs include: 

  • Flexibility and speed: It can take months to launch international operations, but an EOR can reduce the process to a matter of days or weeks. 

  • Less risk: As the legal employer, an EOR is responsible for visas, work permits, country-compliant payroll and taxes, employee contracts, and adherence to local labor laws. Instead of focusing on legal responsibilities, you can focus on the core mission of your business and better service your international customers. 

  • Better employee experience: Employees can gain mobility through Atlas’ visa and global mobility services, localized HR support, and the Atlas HXM platform, which helps employees to manage their working lives. In a world where remote and hybrid work are on the rise, this is an attractive option for employees.  

  • Save costs: The UK in particular has high employee costs, but an EOR can cut down on startup costs overall. Establishing a permanent presence in a country is typically expensive and often requires a minimum investment. The longer you wait to hire employees, the more costs rise. 

Need a step-by-step guide for going global? Try Atlas’ comprehensive EOR handbook. 


The information contained in this article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. The content is provided as updated at the time it was published only without any warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. Atlas is not a law firm and the material provided should not be used in lieu of professional legal consultation. It is recommended that readers seek legal advice from a qualified attorney or legal expert for guidance on any legal issues addressed in this article. Atlas shall not be responsible for any damages or problems that may arise from the use of the information provided in this article.