5 ways setting up an office in the UK is different to in the USA


Besides the humour, the food portions and the slang, it’s easy to think there really isn’t much difference between the US and the UK. We drive on the other side of the road here, but our culture is roughly the same, right?

Well, if you’re making the move and setting up an office in the UK, you’re about to see just how different our two nations can be.

Before you go ahead with your new office plans, we’ll help you get forewarned and forearmed for some of the biggest differences ahead.

1. Your chosen trading model will have lasting implications

Whether you chose to operate directly as a permanent establishment in the UK, or create a subsidiary business, you’ll need to be aware of the different legal implications.

If you’re setting up a permanent establishment, you will need to:

  • Register your new office with Companies House.
  • Be aware that the UK tax year runs from April 6 to April 5 and that your new office will need to be registered with HMRC to pay corporation tax.
  • Register your UK business for VAT if its VAT-taxable sales turnover will exceed £85,000 over 12 months.

2. You’ll need to navigate a whole new list of suppliers

While you’ll recognise a number of US brands in the UK, most of the suppliers you choose will be completely new.

And while some global brands will offer services to help UK office setups, in reality, nothing beats local knowledge. In fact, smaller, more agile suppliers are often better placed to help you.

From office furnishings to telephony and internet cabling, you’ll have a whole new list of names when you get here, so leave plenty of time to effectively compare them.

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3. Employment laws and expectations are different

You may choose to move some of your US employees to your new office. These employees will require the appropriate business visa, and you’ll need to apply for those visas months in advance to make sure they are processed in time.

As your business grows, you may eventually need to hire locally. Here’s what you need to know for when the time comes:

  • Full-time UK employees are entitled to 28 days of paid holiday per year.
  • At the time of writing, the national minimum wage is £7.50 per hour for those 25 and over.
  • ‘At-will employment’ is not valid in the UK. In practice, this means you will need to provide your employees with detailed employment contracts and any employee dismissals will have to be supported by a legally applicable cause.

4. Data handling and privacy laws are changing

By now you’ll have heard of the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). And if you’re anything like us over here, you’re already sick of hearing about compliance.

BUT, it is as important as they say. And it still applies to the business in the UK, regardless of Brexit. So you need to prepare.

In fact, the GDPR applies to every business holding data on any individual in the EU. (And that’s not just citizens living in the EU. It’s anybody in the EU at any given time. It’s about location).

Further reading: Data protection in the US vs Europe: what businesses need to know.

5. The UK is in a very different time zone

Yes, it may be an obvious point, but the implications of time differences can be a bigger deal than you think.

London is five hours ahead of New York, and that’s the smallest difference between the US and the UK. In practice, working hours for both offices will very different – and that’s without accounting for the various  national holidays.

On either side of the Atlantic, your offices will have very limited overlapping work hours to collaborate, so you’ll need to plan conference calls with this in mind.

More importantly, your new overseas office will need IT support and servers that run on their time. If your UK workers have to wait until their US counterparts have started work to deal with productivity-halting  problems, you’ll lose a load of time and money.

It’s best to go with local support

In reality, everything from legal advice to office outfitting means there’s a whole host of things to think about when setting up an office in the UK.  I think we’d all be lying if we said a big move isn’t daunting!

But,  if you enlist local suppliers that really understand your business, your office setup will go smoothly. You can get in-sync with minimal stress.

Need more information?

If you still need more information before you make the move to a UK office, or want a bit of extra advice, here are the best articles for you  on our blog and from the web:

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