With new relocation and international assignment destinations emerging and threats to health and security increasing, we look at how employers can meet their duty of care towards employees on the move.
See more features in the Autumn 2016 issue of Relocate magazine and on our Global Health and Wellness page.
Managing riskTo fulfil their duty of care and increase the chances of a successful assignment, employers must reduce and manage risks to their assignees and themselves.“Risk assessment requires knowledge of the traveller, their itinerary, their destination, the potential health and security risks, and a documented approach to reducing these as far as possible,” says Randall Gordon-Duff, head of corporate travel at Collinson Group.A thorough understanding of the employee’s physical and mental health gives the company an understanding of the risks (to the individual and the organisation) of sending that employee overseas, and ensures that the employee is properly supported in the new location and productive in the job from day one.Potential risks to the organisation of not properly assessing and preparing employees for international travel include unforeseen costs, duty-of-care breaches resulting in damage to the employer brand, and failed assignments.Randall Gordon-Duff points out, “As international assignments often involve substantial investment from companies, and failed assignments can have financial implications for the bottom line, there is a financial interest for employers to ensure that their employees receive the support they need.“Businesses should ensure that proactive engagement and effective pre-deployment are at the heart of any international mobility or HR policy. It is key for HR professionals to understand who has responsibility for managing the complexities of sending staff abroad, as well as to provide pre-deployment support to evaluate an employee’s suitability for the assignment.”
iPMI: adapting to new realitiesInternational private medical insurance is an essential building block of employers’ provision for their international assignees, though research from Jelf suggests that some employers still believe that the European Health Insurance Card and/or travel insurance provide sufficient protection for employees working or travelling overseas.Adam Harding, business development manager at Jelf says, “The simple message is that international PMI is a vital consideration for expats. Travel insurance may also be required by overseas staff, particularly if travelling outside their base location. Policy wording will include clear guidelines about how often employees can travel and how long they can be overseas.” Gone are the days when iPMI was just about providing care for expatriates who fell ill. Spurred by demand from employers keen to meet their duty of care and avoid unnecessary health-related costs, iPMI providers are expanding their offering to include wellness and screening services, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), and apps and other technologies designed to help employees to take control of their own wellbeing.Wellness at work is a relatively new concept, but one that is gaining traction as its value to businesses and individuals is increasingly recognised. Earlier this year, a CIPD report, Growing the Health and Wellbeing Agenda: From First Steps to Full Potential, highlighted the role of healthy workplaces in closing the UK’s productivity gap.The value of work–life balance, and with it the importance of good mental health, is also becoming accepted by employers. Globally mobile employees, who must adapt to a whole new environment as well as a new job, may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress and need help with managing it.
EAPs: next-generation supportBy addressing wider issues than the purely physical, international employee assistance programmes are a logical next step in supporting globally mobile employees.
Technology toolsIn recent years, apps for mobile devices have joined health insurers’ websites in making it easy for expatriates and international assignees to access health information, support and other health-related services.Shortlisted in the Technological Innovation category of the Relocate Awards 2015/16, the Allianz MyHealth App, from Allianz Worldwide Care, allows employees on the move to submit health insurance claims quickly and easily, track their progress and access policy documents even where there is no internet access – vital for those working in remote locations. Users can also obtain advice on a range of topics and access useful online tools.Consulting firm Mercer is partnering with remote care company Babylon to provide access to GP and specialist consultations within minutes via video consultation, phone call or text message. A monitoring system keeps track of everything from key organ functions to cholesterol levels, checking billions of symptoms. The information is then analysed by Babylon’s doctors, who can suggest preventive measures if necessary.Jelf predicted at the start of 2016 that, with rising costs driving the need for innovation and technological advances, the use of wearable technology would also be crucial in meeting future global healthcare challenges.
A partnership with employeesPre-departure, employers should ensure that their international assignees are fully informed about healthcare provision in their destination country, manage their expectations and put in place appropriate medical evacuation plans.Expatriates should be made aware that, even in relatively developed parts of the world, the standard of medical care may be very different from what they are used to. Language may also prove a problem.
Security at the forefrontRecent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium, as well as civil unrest in Germany, have placed safety and security at the top of the agenda for organisations with globally mobile employees.Managing risks to employee safety is now as much a consideration for employers with assignees in Europe and other parts of the world formerly considered to pose low risks as it has previously been in parts of the world traditionally regarded as higher risk.The recent earthquake in Italy is a reminder that expatriates can be caught out by natural disasters even in areas generally regarded as low risk.As a sign of the times, APRIL International UK is offering all new clients free access to Red24’s travel and risk management services. Also partnering Red24 is Allianz Worldwide Care.
Looking aheadWhat of the future? Jelf’s Doug Rice believes that, as international healthcare becomes less affordable, it becomes more of a cost and less of a benefit, leading employers to look at alternative ways of managing their budgets.“There will be an emergence of higher co-payment schemes, larger deductibles and excesses, and improved risk management to support a growing cost-conscious consumer and employer,” he says. “The ageing population puts a strain on healthcare and makes it more expensive, so there will be an increasing emphasis on collecting good data to improve prevention.”
For more news and features about health and wellness, visit our Global Health and Wellness section.
The following sections may also be of interest: International Assignments, Technology
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