There’s a very good chance that COVID-19 will be endemic and something that expatriate employers and multinationals will have to contend with indefinitely. While there have been significant advances through the global Covid vaccination program for many employees in more developed countries, there are still huge swaths of the world that have low vaccination rates.
Business Travel & Expatriation Complexity
It may take several years for Covid vaccinations to reach the developing world and we can’t expect that coverage will be complete anywhere, including in developed countries such as the USA where anti-vaccination sentiment remains quite high.
So expat employers and organizations sending employees abroad on business travel trips need to take additional steps to contend with these challenges.
Tools for Multinational Employers
Technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams that have changed the way we do business over the last 18 months are here to stay. Companies won’t send an employee abroad unless it is absolutely necessary. But even with rapid advances in these tools, many industries still rely on the ability for staff to move easily across states and borders, with in-person meetings and event networking crucial for client relationships and international operations. Multinationals still need to reach out to global customers and make sure overseas operations are functioning well.
We all hope that as the vaccination roll-out continues to ramp up, business travel will start to experience an upswing, but it is vital that organizations make sure they are exercising a duty of care and remain vigilant. HR managers can and should use the tools provided by their business travel insurance and global medical insurance policies which often provide free and timely expatriation and business travel information via their online portals, but there’s also other avenues and consultants who can assist.
Duty of Care For Expats and Business Travelers
Employers have a duty of care to their mobile workforce and anything that could put them at risk must be assessed thoroughly. In the past, a lot of business travel concerns were categorised into four main areas – operational risks, medical risks, political risks and security risks. But today, there is a fifth risk that employers need to plan and prepare for. Not only to avoid operational disruption, reputational damage and potential litigation but to safeguard their greatest assets – their employees and their families who are travelling abroad or being posted in a foreign country. This is, of course, is where COVID-19 comes in.
It is key to assess the risk of COVID-19
For the safety and security of your organization’s employees, a one-size-fits-all approach to managing this risk just isn’t viable anymore. There are a lot of travel-related implications of the pandemic that are subject to change at short notice and can vary on a local or regional level. Expat employers and global mobility managers need to consider:
- Travel and social restrictions
- Entry requirements
- Level of COVID-19 at country destination
- Quarantine arrangements. Not to mention, every traveller has their own unique profile.
- The employee’s health – are they undergoing treatment
HR managers need to make sure that no employee should be put in a position where their health or safety is placed at unreasonable risk. The risk can be mitigated by assessing the viability of travel on a case-by-case basis. By reducing risks, you can help protect your employees, your company’s reputation and your bottom line. As a result of assessing and reducing your international risk, you could also deliver savings on your insurance premiums, though most business travel and expat health plans do not adjust premiums based on claims experience. Either way, it is good to do your part to reduce spends on expensive healthcare costs and unplanned medical evacuations.
Business Travel Insurance and Covid-19
A big part of your organization’s duty of care is establishing a business travel insurance program that will meet the emergency medical needs of employees travelling beyond the reach of their domestic health plans. Most business travel plans will cover up to 6 months of travel per trip and cover the emergency medical requirements including COVID-19, but unfortunately, no all business travel insurance plans are equal. You should read the fine print of your existing coverage and not rely solely on the more basic pleasure travel insurance coverage that your domestic health plan may cover.
Also, any business travel policy should have capable medical evacuation coverage when local healthcare is not capable of properly treating an injury or illness. TFG Global, which operated this website, is well acquainted with sourcing very robust business travel medical insurance policies for global employers. The policies can be set up easily if we are provided with the expected travels for your organization and fully cover COVID-19 related illnesses.
Global health plans that cover COVID-19
Finally, a key component of your duty of care for employees posted abroad for 6 months or more is establishing a comprehensive global benefits plan that will cover the international medical costs for your employees and dependents along with medical evacuation that fully covers the COVID-19 risks around the globe. We are fortunate to work with international insurance providers that cover COVID-19 like any other illness. Note that when it comes to medical evacuation for an employee with COVID-19, all insurers and their evac partners have to contend with country exit and entry rules. Any medical evacuation has to be coordinated and approved by the insurer and their medical evacuation suppliers.