Bosses play Russian roulette with staff health overseas

Businesses of all sizes are increasingly looking to expand overseas. But according to the Anatomy of an International Business, research from healthcare provider Expacare, companies are taking unnecessary risks when it comes to the health of staff they sent abroad.

The majority of employers look to post employees overseas for between three to six months, 27 per cent sending employees for six months to a year.

The reason is clear: businesses are looking to capitalise on growth opportunities overseas. However, they fail to offer the necessary tailored benefit packages for their international staff. Worryingly, 41 per cent of employers acknowledged that the overall package offered to UK and international based staff did not differ, despite overseas staff needing specific benefits, such as relocation allowance and private medical insurance. Employers view relocation allowance as a low priority, with less than a quarter deeming it a core provision.

Although staff suffered from poor healthcare, it is encouraging to know employers felt that offering their staff private health insurance was, in fact, important. 

In addition, the research examined a business’ level of responsibility towards international staff and their families. Almost a third felt more responsibility to their staff members overseas, but not towards their families. Only 8 per cent of employers placed any importance on family, with a school allowance not being seen as a vital part of an employee’s international package.

Beverly Cook, managing director of Expacare, commented: “The research has shown that employers are all too often leaving their staff vulnerable when relocating them to work overseas. There seems to be real confusion over policies, with far too many businesses assuming that their employees will be covered if they are located in the EU, and that an employee’s travel insurance policy will cover all their health needs, which is rarely the case.

“Relocating employees internationally poses unique challenges to employers large and small, and with health inflation at an all-time high it has never been more important for them to ensure that their staff are properly protected. Businesses need to adopt a rigorous approach to cost containment without cutting corners so they can be sure they have reliable cover without an exorbitant price tag.”

Unearthing the health insurance provisions staff value when working overseas, the research found that nearly two fifths wished for medical evaluation. 36 percent requested a 24 hours helpline, while just over a quarter asked for a choice of doctors and medical facilities.

The need for insurance covering cancer against palliative care and treatment of on-going chronic conditions was the most valued benefit.  

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