Irish-based Europe GM for Atlas, Ruairi Kelleher, explained how employer-of-record software can help companies with compliance headaches when they want to hire abroad.
“Companies that have exclusively operated in one country may find themselves looking outside of their domestic market for the first time in 2023 – not to access new customer markets, but to connect with global talent,” according to Rick Hammell, CEO and founder of Atlas.
Atlas provides employer-of-record (EOR) software services to companies worldwide. Simply put, an EOR is a third-party organisation that steps in to handle a lot of the admin work for companies hiring staff based internationally.
Things like compliance, legal and other issues often crop up when companies hire people abroad, so EORs step in after the initial recruitment process for employers to outsource these admin headaches.
A report from February by Dublin-based digital recruitment agency Prosperity predicted that flexible working practices like letting employees work remotely from other countries and digital nomadism would be hugely popular for 2022.
Hammell believes that, as remote work practices like nearshoring and offshoring continue to hold sway, EOR services will become more common and in-demand.
“From a HR perspective, the most essential and prevalent tool we’ll see these companies implementing is an employer-of-record platform to serve as an ‘in-country expert’ as they scale their business globally.”
With Irish workers appearing to jump on the opportunity to avail of flexible working, Atlas is well placed to move into the Irish market now, which it has been doing.
SiliconRepublic.com spoke to Atlas’ general manager for Europe, Ruairi Kelleher, about the company’s growth plans for Ireland and what EORs offer employers.
While Atlas’ business model is quite dependent on companies letting workers base themselves outside of the traditional company office, it has 16 physical offices worldwide.
Atlas’ expansion in Dublin
Kelleher said that Atlas has recently signed a lease on a new office in Dublin as it sees a lot of potential in the Irish market, as well as the fact that it is close to Europe.
“The company has made a big commitment to Europe and Ireland is at the centre of that.”
When he started at the company in May, it had around six employees in Ireland. But Kelleher reckons “we’ll have 40 by the end of the year; we’ll have 60, probably 60 to 70 by the end of the first half of next year.”
Atlas’ global head of sales and a number of other senior executives, including Kelleher himself, are based in Ireland.
While Kelleher has not been in his current position at Atlas for a long time, he has many years of experience in relevant sectors such as global mobility, taxation and international payroll. He used to be CEO of Irish global payroll tech company Immedis, a spin-out of the Taxback group.
He left Immedis for Atlas because, having scaled the company from 10 to 400 employees over a five-year period, he was ready for another challenge. The EOR market has many parallels to the international payroll sector, which interested him. He became even more excited by the potential of the EOR industry when remote and flexible working demands surged during Covid-19.
He saw an opportunity to make a difference with Atlas, leading its European expansion. The US company has a definite ambition to be a global organisation, albeit with local structures and management teams and cultures, Kelleher said.
Influence of the pandemic
Naturally enough, he addresses the fact that flexible working has boomed because of the pandemic.
“I’ve never seen a macro-environment change so quickly – obviously driven by a very unwelcome reason, but nonetheless, you’ve got to make the most of a crisis and I think this is one of the benefits that came from it,” he said.
“Historically, I remember sitting with HR leaders where you’d have the office and you draw a circle around the office and that was your access to talent – that was your talent pool. And now you can basically draw a circle around the world and that’s your talent pool. That change has happened so quickly.”
Kelleher reckons that the speed at which the change occurred happened quicker than governments and companies were ready for.
While he thinks that conceptually speaking, remote working is “quite an easy thing to get your head around,” it’s not easy from a compliance point of view.
For the most part, the legislation isn’t there to cater to these types of contracts, said Kelleher – and that’s where companies like Atlas stand to gain.
“That’s a huge opportunity for us to help support organisations hire any anyone anywhere in the world. And it’s kind of a critical mission of ours,” he said.
As well as for workers, flexible working can be advantageous to companies too. For smaller companies, it can help them “break down borders” when recruiting for talent, giving them access to a wider pool. This enables them to compete with larger organisations, said Kelleher.
Atlas employs more than 50 lawyers in-house globally, and it also has a strong global legal network with some of the biggest law firms in the world.
Kelleher described the service it provides as “almost a comfort” to customers. “Our value proposition is compliance and agility,” he said.
“We provide that local expertise on the ground in countries so our customers don’t need to undergo the cost of professional advice, setting up entities, the cost of managing entities, the costs of accounting, legal…just for the sake of employing one or two people in an area that they may not stay in.”
As Kelleher noted, companies turn to EOR players like Atlas because they are wary of falling foul of the law when it comes to tax and employment in other jurisdictions.
“Compliance becomes a big issue because it’s generally only when something goes wrong that the bell goes off.”
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