Professional Employer Organization (PEO) vs. Global Employment Outsourcing (GEO)

May 10, 2018

global employment organization vs professional employment organization

Decoding international PEO

Researching and planning your global employment strategy is complex enough. Add in the confusing acronyms and industry jargon, and the undertaking can quickly become overwhelming. We’re here to help clarify and simplify—and we’ll start with a dive into the murky definition of international PEO.

Let’s start with the basics: What is a Professional Employer Organization?

A PEO, or Professional Employer Organization, provides outsourced HR support, including benefits and payroll administration, HR guidance and assistance with employment law compliance.

PEO providers within the United States operate what is referred to as a “co-employment” model. In co-employment, the PEO provider becomes responsible for the legal employment and payroll component of hiring an employee, and the workers have their day-to-day activities managed by the company. One crucial but often overlooked feature of the co-employment model is that the client organization is required to be legally registered as a company, or entity, in the country where the employees are.

What about an international PEO?

This co-employment format does not exist outside the United States. Some countries, such as France and Switzerland, may also view co-employment as illegal.

It’s easy to see why some providers refer to themselves as international PEOs—there are certainly similarities between a PEO and a global employer of record service.

By referencing the PEO model when they're referring to an employer of record, they give would-be buyers a familiar concept to help them understand what’s being offered. However, there must be a clear line between the domestic and global offerings due to the implications of co-employment and entity establishment.

Introducing Global Employment Outsourcing

To distinguish between international PEO and a global employer of record service, we’ve coined the term “GEO". This means our service does not require clients to establish an entity in the countries they are looking for employment support.

GEO shares many properties with PEOs, such as removing the administrative HR and payroll burdens for our clients, but one key difference is that GEO allows our clients to compliantly employ and pay employees and contractors without the need for establishing a legal entity.

Another way GEO differs from international PEO is that it provides a flexible solution based on clients’ specific employment scenarios.

Traditional staffing agencies and other international PEO providers have rigid employment contract terms and benefit provisions for its workers. This can have an impact on clients looking to hire and retain a higher level of talent—particularly in countries where statutory benefit provisions may not be sufficient. The ability to customize employment scenarios can be invaluable in these circumstances.

Which model should I consider?

When evaluating your options, ensure that your provider is not advocating for the co-employment model that U.S.-focused Professional Employer Organization companies operate.

What to expect when using a global employment partner

With PEO
With GEO/employer of record

Required in every country you hire employees

Business Registration

Not required

You're responsible

Liability of employees

Employer of record is responsible

PEO provides some coverage; however, you'll likely need your own insurance plan for full protection

Employee insurance

Employer of record provides full coverage, including in-country equivalents of general liability, workers compensation and professional indemnity

PEO provides HR support upon request; however, you must implement and act on any recommendations

HR Support

Employer of record provides and implements all HR requests in accordance with local laws and regulations

PEO is a "co-employer" only, so you're liable for any breach of an employment contract

Employment Contracts

Employment contract is between the employee and the employer of record, removing you from liability

Your provider should be able to deliver a full employer of record service—including handling payroll and employment compliance, tax remittance and other administrative and reporting tasks—without requiring you to register a presence either as an entity or an employer in that country.

If you have further questions about using an international employer of record service, check out our video or contact us to speak with a global solutions advisor.

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