Employers often ignore the localised health needs of staff they send to work overseas, research has suggested, with two-fifths of expatriates only being offered the same healthcare package as their counterparts in the UK, irrespective of its appropriateness to their specific posting.
Companies of all sizes are increasingly looking to expand into other countries, but businesses are taking unnecessary risks when it comes to their employees’ health, the research by healthcare provider Expacare concludes.
Benefit options provided by employers operating internationally varied little from those provided for employees solely based in the UK, despite employees working overseas normally needing specific benefits such as a relocation allowance and private medical insurance, the study found.
The majority of employers questioned typically looked to post an employee overseas for between three to six months, with more than a quarter sending employees away for up to a year.
More than two-fifths of the employers surveyed said the overall value did not differ between domestic and expat staff.
Private health insurance
When it came to health, employers did, by and large, feel that offering private health insurance was important, and this was the most common benefit provided for both internationally and domestically based staff (32%).
Nevertheless, fewer than one-fifth placed any importance on offering critical illness cover in the event of long-term or serious illness.
There were also differing attitudes towards health insurance provision for workers. More than one-third of employers said it was a personal choice for staff, while nearly a quarter said they would like to provide health insurance but could not afford to do so.
Beverly Cook, Expacare managing director, said: “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. Private health insurance is a valued benefit for staff, but care for chronic and palliative conditions is often overlooked. Businesses need to adopt a rigorous approach to cost containment without cutting corners so they can be sure they have reliable cover.”
The research also highlighted the types of health cover most valued by expat workers.
Nearly two-fifths wished for medical evacuation, more than one-third requested a 24-hour helpline and more than a quarter asked for a choice of doctors.