How global companies can hire South Africans: pros & cons

In the age of nomadic lifestyles, remote work, and the virtual labour force, global companies can build an energetic team regardless of location. Building a global workforce is now easier than ever, allowing leaders access to a talent pool we couldn’t imagine a decade ago.

One positive outcome from the global pandemic is the permanent acceptance of remote work. Many companies everywhere have opened up to an emptier office, or better yet, no office. This shift to remote work brought opportunities to skilled South Africans and international talent. For us South Africans, the time-zone correlation with Europe makes us especially attractive workers for foreign companies.

But hiring outside your home country can present some drawbacks.

When you hire internationally, you face unfamiliar laws and requirements. For this reason, it’s essential to understand the advantages and disadvantages of securing independent contractors in other countries.

In this article, I dive into the mechanics of hiring South Africans as an international company.

Keep in mind that this article gives general guidelines for global expansion. The exact rules relating to engaging independent contractors in South Africa or other countries vary according to the local laws. I suggest getting the legal pros involved for compliance advice.

Consider the practicalities

Weigh up the logistics of having foreign team members if it’s sensible for you to hire global contractors. The following questions will help you decide the workability of taking on international contractors.

  • Are there any language barriers to consider and if so, how will you deal with them?
  • How will you handle the difference in time zones?
  • What tools and software are required?
  • How will you structure or handle contracts?
  • Should you consider the minimum and maximum duration of the contract?
  • Will your company need a local presence to operate in the country?
  • What currencies can you use and what are the best payment options?
  • How will you deal with foreign exchange?

If you couldn’t answer some or all of the questions above, I suggest reaching out to a global expansion partner to give you all the insight you need to easily enter the global market.

But for now, let’s look at the downsides of onboarding remote workers and end off on a positive note.

What are the disadvantages of hiring South African independent contractors?

  • Understanding local labour laws might be an overwhelming and time-consuming task.
  • Some contractors can feel undervalued without the benefits employees get.
  • You cannot control how the contractor delivers work — the resources used, and when or where the tasks are performed. You can only control the end result of projects.
  • Contractors usually retain intellectual property for their creations.
  • You might risk misclassifying contractors.
  • Contractors tend to have shorter engagements with their clients and therefore can be more unreliable than employees.
  • Time zone differences can cause project delays for companies in the US and Australia for example, and especially when a company lacks good time management.
  • South Africans often experience load shedding (scheduled grid power cuts) or unpredictable week-long power outages that can cause project delays. (I wrote about the pros and cons of working remotely in South Africa if you want an inside look)

But even while some contractors leave clients on a whim, there are ethical people that consider themselves professionals. Most of these disadvantages can be effectively managed with a written independent contract in place. For example, it’s a standard procedure and, I believe, simply good manners to agree on a 30-day notice period.

Is a contract necessary and what needs to be included?

Yes, a contract is standard practice. It’s essential to help manage business expectations, save money and strengthen a business relationship. To come to an agreement helps us avoid disagreement or litigation altogether.

I understand that contracts can be intimidating, but the solution is simple. Seek legal advice before signing anything, and especially if you don’t fully understand the terms of a contract. A contract also serves to dispel problem areas early in the negotiation process.

Make sure these basic sections are added in the contract:

  • Type of contract
  • Length of the contract and termination
  • Services being rendered
  • Contractor responsibilities
  • Confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement
  • Ownership and licences
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Non-solicitation agreement
  • Liability and indemnity

If you haven’t yet, you will soon realise that dealing with written agreements is part of running a business. I always come legally prepared and find it troublesome when companies raise an eyebrow at the mention of a contract.

What are the advantages of hiring South African independent contractors?

  • Hiring a contractor is easier and faster than onboarding a local employee.
  • Contractors offer flexibility and low commitment.
  • South African contractors can be a lot more cost-effective.
  • In general, contractors manage their own taxes.
  • Contractors don’t require training, resources, or equipment to do their work.
  • You can draw on the savings of excluding costs associated with onsite business operations.
  • Little to no language barrier if working in English.
  • No problems with time zone differences for European companies.
  • Remote workers tend to be more productive than employees due to the autonomy we enjoy, which can also lead to reduced workplace distractions.
  • South African freelancers are eager to jump into the global talent pool.
  • Going remote is good for our environment and, in turn, good for business.
  • Getting the perspective from someone in another country like South Africa can add diversity to your brand and content.

One of the main reasons international companies hire independent contractors is the hassle-free way they supplement teams. Contractors are self-sufficient people that come ready for work with their own equipment, office space, software, and expertise. Other notable benefits include fewer legal hurdles to deal with and better control of your company budget.

As long as you consider the complexities involved with local labour laws, hiring independent contractors based in South Africa and any other country can help you scale your business.

The benefits for remote workers might be more obvious, but going remote is equally meaningful for both the independent contractor and the hiring company. From increased contractor retention to reduced overhead costs and optimistic environmental impacts, remote-enabled companies can embrace the advantages of the modern workforce without sacrificing business performance.

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Celesté Polley

Celesté is a content writer, creative photographer, pianist, avid birder, environmentalist at heart, and Earth wanderer from South Africa.

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