Ask Atlas: A Practical Guide to HR Practices and Compliance in Europe

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Atlas Team

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

Published: 20 May 2024

Expanding business operations into Europe requires a comprehensive understanding of the diverse and complex HR practices and compliance requirements across different countries.  

In our recent Ask Atlas webinar — A Practical Guide to HR Practices & Compliance in Europe — our experts provided invaluable insights into key aspects of managing human resources across the continent, ensuring that businesses can navigate these challenges effectively.  

Europe at a Glance 

Europe presents a unique and varied landscape for HR practices due to its geopolitical, demographic, and technological trends.  

Significant factors that shape the region include: 

  • Geostrategic Changes: The concentration and sources of geopolitical power are evolving, with substantial implications for economic and labor markets. 

  • Technological Acceleration: The rapid development of cutting-edge technologies like AI is influencing the job market and the skills required. 

  • Demographic Shifts: Changes in population size, growth, and structure are impacting labor supply and demand. 

  • Climate Change: Climate-related challenges are influencing policies and economic priorities, affecting industries and employment. 

These factors create a dynamic environment that businesses must navigate to remain compliant and competitive. 

Onboarding and Offboarding Employees 

The process of onboarding and offboarding employees varies significantly between different European countries.  

Below are checklists for three of the most popular European markets. 


Onboarding Checklist 



Personal Identification

Valid passport or national identity card

Social Security Information

Social security number for automatic registration with health insurance and pension schemes

Tax Information

Tax ID (Steuer-ID) and Income Tax Card (Lohnsteuerkarte)

Proof of Health Insurance

Registration with a statutory or private health insurance company

Residence Permit

Valid work and residence permit for non-EU nationals; EU Blue Card recommended

Bank Account Details

Necessary for salary payments

Employment Contract

Outlines the terms and conditions of employment

Educational and Professional Qualifications

Relevant diplomas and certificates

Work Safety Training Documentation

Documentation showing completion of required safety training courses

Offboarding Checklist



Compliance with Notice Periods

Termination must respect the notice periods stated in the employment contract or statutory minimums

Final Payroll Processing

Includes outstanding salary, accrued vacation days, and possible severance pay

Certificate of Employment (Arbeitszeugnis)

Written reference detailing the employee's duties and performance

Deregistration Requirements

Deregister the employee from social security, health insurance, pension schemes, and unemployment insurance

Return of Company Property

Arrange for the return of company property such as ID badges, keys, equipment, and documents

Data Protection

Ensure compliance with GDPR regarding the handling of personal data


Onboarding Checklist 



Personal Identification

Valid passport or national identity card

Social Security Affiliation Document

Register new hires with the Spanish Social Security system

Tax Identification Number (NIF)

National identity number for EU nationals; Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE) for non-EU nationals

Work and Residence Permit

Required for non-EU nationals; EU Blue Card needed for highly skilled workers

Bank Account Details

For processing salary payments

Employment Contract

Should be in Spanish and detail the employment conditions

Proof of Professional Qualifications

Relevant diplomas and certificates

Offboarding Checklist 



Legal Framework for Terminations

Ensure compliance with Spanish employment law regarding dismissals

Final Settlement (Finiquito)

Document summarizing all amounts owed to the employee at termination

Notification Requirements

Written notice according to the terms specified in the employment contract or statutory minimum

Social Security Notifications

Notify the Spanish Social Security of the termination

Company Property

Ensure the recovery of company assets from the employee

Compliance with GDPR

Handle all personal data according to GDPR guidelines

United Kingdom

Onboarding Checklist



Right to Work Documentation

Passport or national ID card for EU citizens; appropriate visa and work permits for non-EU nationals

National Insurance Number (NI)

Necessary for participation in the UK's social security system

Tax Information

P45 from the previous employer or a completed Starter Checklist

Bank Account Details

For salary deposits

Employment Contract

Detailing terms and conditions of employment

Proof of Address

Sometimes required for background checks

Emergency Contact Information

Generally requested for HR purposes

DBS Check (Disclosure and Barring Service)

Required for positions involving work with vulnerable groups or certain regulated activities

Offboarding Checklist



Notice Period

Adherence to the notice periods as set out in the contract of employment or statutory minimum notice periods

Final Pay

Calculation of final pay, including outstanding salary, accrued holiday pay, and redundancy payments if applicable

P45 Form

Issuance of a P45 form summarizing tax deductions for the year

Exit Interviews

Conducting exit interviews can provide valuable feedback and help resolve any outstanding issues amicably

Company Property

Arrange for the return of company property

Data Protection

Ensure the protection and proper handling of personal data under the UK Data Protection Act and GDPR

Common Pitfalls in Payroll and Benefits Strategy 

Designing a payroll and benefits strategy for an international workforce is a big challenge and organisation’s should be aware of the most common pitfalls, including: 

  • Operating with Gross Pay: Employers must consider local tax liabilities and refunds, which are influenced by employees' locations, family situations, and income levels. 

  • Negotiating Annual Packages: It is essential to include statutory and customary payroll elements, such as 13th and 14th-month salaries in Spain. 

  • Local Benefits Awareness: Employers should be aware of statutory benefits like work-from-home allowances in the UK and Spain, and meal vouchers. 

  • EU Framework Agreement for Social Security: Employers must ensure compliance with social security rules, especially when employees work across borders.  

The Employer of Record (EOR) Solution 

Atlas HXM offers an Employer of Record (EOR) service that simplifies global expansion by handling HR, tax, and compliance responsibilities in any country where businesses do not have a legal entity. Key benefits of using Atlas HXM's EOR services include: 

  • Compliance: Ensures adherence to local laws and regulations, mitigating risks associated with non-compliance. 

  • Cost Savings: Reduces the financial burden of setting up and maintaining legal entities in multiple countries. 

  • Administrative Efficiency: Streamlines HR operations, allowing businesses to focus on strategic objectives. 

  • Flexibility: Provides the ability to quickly hire and manage international talent without the need for local entities. 

Case Studies: European Expansion in Practice  

Clean Air Fund: A global philanthropic organization, the Clean Air Fund faced the challenge of rapidly setting up operations in several countries. The costs and time required to establish their own entities were prohibitive, so Atlas provided a tailored global hiring solution, ensuring a streamlined and fully compliant process. This partnership allowed Clean Air Fund to leverage Atlas's extensive global presence and expertise, significantly saving time and resources that could be redirected towards their mission of combating air pollution. 

inDrive: A ride-hailing service operating in 655 cities across 48 countries, inDrive needed to address potential compliance issues with contractors and navigate complex labor laws across multiple regions. Atlas advised on the correct classification of contractors versus employees and assisted in transitioning contractors to employees to mitigate compliance risks. This streamlined their international people management, providing a single partner for operations across various jurisdictions. 

Expanding into Europe presents opportunities but also challenges

Catch up with the on-demand recording of this Ask Atlas session for more detail.

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