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          Employer Duty of Care Rule

          Employer Duty of Care Rule #1: choose the appropriate health insurance cover for your overseas employees

          The need to travel overseas is essential to global organisations. Even with today’s advancements in digital communications, business travel has not lost its appeal. But with employees often travelling to unfamiliar environments, the existence of political unrest, natural disasters and outbreaks in disease, employers must take note of their duty of care when sending employees abroad on business. 

          Duty of Care Rule #1 is to ensure employers have appropriate insurances in place to protect them if something does go wrong. In this article we look at the pros and cons of international private medical insurance, business travel insurance and domestic private medical insurance cover.

          Each of the three cover types offer different types and levels of protection to employees so employers should undertake a full risk assessment before their employees travel, especially to a new destination. The risk assessment should look to answer a number of criteria about the destination country, including:

          • The political situation
          • The likelihood of a natural disaster
          • Local diseases
          • The local healthcare infrastructure
          • Levels of air pollution
          • The likelihood of kidnap or muggings

          Risks like disease can be minimised through appropriate vaccinations, but others will be unforeseen and appropriate health insurance will need to be in place. Domestic health, business travel and international health insurance all offer health protection to varying degrees but employers need to understand the key differences and which form is appropriate for their employees and their business.

          Business Travel Insurance

          Business travel insurance might be a suitable option for employees taking short or infrequent trips overseas. This type of insurance will cover the typical risks protected by a travel insurance policy, such as cancellations, business equipment and loss of luggage.

          Medical treatment will also be covered by business travel insurance, but there are restrictions. Typically, only emergency treatment will be covered and the limits of that treatment may not be as high as those offered with a domestic or international private medical insurance plan. Pre-existing conditions are also unlikely to be covered.

          Business travel insurance is designed to provide cover for short-term emergency medical treatment, within a specified region, and to get you well enough to return home. Long term medical treatment will not be covered so if an employee becomes too ill to travel with a condition that needs long-term care, they could face a difficult situation.

          Private Medical Insurance – domestic PMI vs international PMI

          Where an employee takes up a longer term position overseas, health insurance will be a more appropriate form of cover than business travel insurance.

          Health insurance can either be domestic or international.

          Both forms of insurance will typically cover emergency, long-term and elective treatment. In-patient care is usually covered in full – up to generous benefit limits – and a range of out-patient and optional benefits will be available such as physiotherapy sessions, maternity, dental and vision care.

          Domestic private medical insurance provides cover within a specific country of residence. International cover typically protects the individual and their dependants across regions or worldwide where they are living or travelling.
           

          Domestic cover pros and cons

          Pros

          Cons

          Covers emergency, long-term and elective treatment

          Huge variety of plan types so choosing the right one is important to avoid cover that is too restrictive

          Usually cheaper than international private medical cover – but cover may be more restrictive

          Usually more expensive than business travel insurance

          Easier to tailor cover to fit with local healthcare infrastructures

          Restricted to one country

          May cover pre-existing medical conditions

           

           

          International cover pros and cons

          Pros

          Cons

          Covers emergency, long-term and elective treatment

          Variety of plan types on offer but all available with relatively high benefit limits and breadth of cover compared to domestic plans

          Offers repatriation and other emergency assistance services

          Can be expensive compared to domestic and business travel insurance

          Provides cover no matter where the employee is living or traveling

          Direct billing facility limited to insurer’s medical network

          May cover pre-existing medical conditions

           

          Controlling budgets

          Businesses must manage their costs effectively to stay profitable. Whilst health insurance can be expensive, employers do have a range of options available to them if the costs of premiums is a concern.

          Excesses and deductibles, for example, can be set to encourage employees to pay for minor forms of treatment themselves. And add-on benefits such as dental cover can also be limited.

          It is also important to look at how tailorable the plans are, so employers can choose the appropriate level of inpatient, outpatient and optional benefits to suit their employee’s needs and their budget.

          Although these practices will result in more limited forms of cover, the employer can still provide their employees with plans that cover comprehensive in-patient treatment and emergency assistance services, in the case of international cover.

          Employer Check-List

          Employers looking to understand the appropriate cover for their staff living or working abroad should ask themselves the following:

          • How long will the employee be overseas for?
          • Are they going to one country or will they be travelling around?
          • What political and domestic risks exist in their destination(s)?
          • Does the employee have any pre-existing conditions?
          • Is the employee moving with family members?
          • What language and cultural challenges exist in the destination(s)?
          • What budget do I have available for insurances?
          • How important is medical insurance in attracting and retaining staff?

          Providing an appropriate level of protection for overseas staff members is an important aspect of employer duty of care. If an employee has an accident, becomes ill or generally finds it difficult to cope with their new environment, help should be available from the insurer. Where inappropriate cover or insurance with benefits that are too restrictive have been taken out, however, the employee could be left exposed, just when they need it most.