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Thailand Work Permits: What is the Definition of Work?

Transcript of the above video:

In this video today as the title suggests, we are going to be discussing work permits, work authorization in Thailand and specifically an issue that constantly, maybe not constantly, but an issue that often gets brought up is,  "What is Work? Define "work".

Well that is not the easiest thing to define. It is somewhat left rather vague as to what constitutes work in the Kingdom. In the past, volunteer endeavors have been dictated as work. I recently found an interesting sort of analysis on this from the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand on their website They did a hand out where they sort of discussed this in a little bit more detail but to quote directly from this handout, "Interpretation principles are based on a 1972 Law, over 45 years old, which was most recently incorporated in the 2008 Foreign Employment Act, such that the following activities were defined as work. 1. If physical effort or knowledge is required in order to complete an activity/task, even if it has little or no effect on the labor market in Thailand".  I paraphrased just a teeny bit there because there may be a little bit of a translation error.  So the first thing to take away. Anything that requires knowledge or effort could be defined as work. The other thing is, and that is regardless of whether or not it has any impact on the labor market in Thailand. So for example the individual in question may wish to undertake volunteer activities that no one is ever going to pay for and therefore it has no impact on the rates of wages or how much a time I get paid to do that same job, it simply will not impact. It doesn't matter it can still be considered work. And again effort and knowledge can be considered enough to get you over the threshold to be considered work, at least under sort of the prior paradigm. And it does seem to be, we are kind of in a state of flux right now  and the thing that I will go into shortly is how we're not exactly certain how this is all going to shake out because we have done videos on here where we have talked about, that they have bought in new Labor Department regulations and it would seem that some of this has been dealt with under that. Sort of more to that point and quoting further "A decree issued on 23rd June 2017, also known as the Management of Foreign Workers Ordinance or Emergency Decree on Managing the Work of Aliens made changes. Notably: repeal the Foreign Employment Act, continue the basis for definition of work but made it narrower by requiring that the activity be linked to activities conducted for the purpose of carrying on an occupation or undertaking a business. So they tried to get it sort of away from just "walking and thinking", which frankly that is kind of what the rules could imply that work entails as simply putting out effort and thinking in one's head. The aim of reducing human trafficking, I have gone into a lot of this at length on other videos where I talk about the changes to the labor code that they made really strict penalties, especially for those who routinely engage in non-compliant labor activities. There are serious penalties for that and it seems Thailand is taking the issue of so-called human trafficking rather seriously. This act also empowered the Minister of Labour to issue a declaration notification saying what activities were not work. So there can be sort of a decree issued that says “building sandcastles on the beach does not constitute work”. I am just using a hypothetical there but it could happen under the new regulations. That being said, as noted in other videos those rules came into effect, a moratorium was immediately put on them, some amendments were made. Again we are in a bit of flux with respect to how this is going to look, how the hard and fast rules are going to be moving forward. One final note and I think this is of importance. The Department of Employment has reconfirmed that a Foreigner Director of a Thai company may not sign accounts, AKA financial statements, at a board meeting unless he has a work permit; he or she has a work permit. So I have always said in a clear business context, signing things, every time we have ever dealt with the Labour Ministry over here in Thailand and we have requested clarification with respect to what is and is not work, one of the big bright line  rules has always been signing corporate documentation in Thailand without a work permit can be viewed as working without authorization and where you have got a signature, and usually a date on such documentation, or at least a filing date of such documentation, you can pretty much specify when and where, possibly where, the illegal activity actually occurred. So I don't want this video to be viewed as exhaustive with respect to what is work. It is not a hard-and-fast thing, it is sort of a very nebulous notion. It is very useful the Joint Chambers of Commerce producing this, I think it was a very succinct analysis and it is far longer; there is like 30 pages. I highly recommend those who are watching this video check out their website, that's and check this out further if you are interested. But those who are looking to volunteer or work in some non-remunerative capacity here in the Kingdom, this video made necessary not necessarily before you. I think that the Thais are relaxing some aspects of their labor rules with respect to that. That being said they haven't relaxed it fully and still volunteer endeavors could still be deemed to be work. Again where the bright-line rule is with respect to doing business and things like that, it is kind of hard to nail down. But the things to take away from this video for those who are looking to set up a company in Thailand and do business here is note: signing things is often considered working so you are going to need a work permit for most things associated with actually running a business here in the Kingdom.