Things to Think about when Travelling Abroad for your company

1. Understand the International Insurance Coverage Options

As with any type of coverage, there are important policies and endorsements to existing policies that are designed to respond to employee injuries or claims abroad. One of those is the Foreign Voluntary Compensation endorsement added to a U.S. workers’ compensation policy. This endorsement can provide coverage for employees traveling abroad for company business. It typically covers medical costs and lost wage benefits, as well as costly repatriation expenses when an injured worker needs a medical evacuation back to the United States. However, this coverage can be fairly limited. As with traditional workers’ compensation coverage, the endorsement may be subject to a policy’s high deductible and, more importantly, employees may not be covered when they are not engaged in work activities at the time of the incident. For example, an employee, who slipped in his hotel lobby or was in a car accident may not be covered under the workers’ compensation policy if it is not deemed to be in the course and scope of employment.

Business travel accident involves an extension of the basic accident policy to include out of country travel benefits, while an international package policy involves combining multiple lines of coverage into a single policy. Having an international package policy allows employers to build a comprehensive policy based on the specific risks and exposures the company and its employees may encounter. Coverages that may be placed in an international insurance package include, but are not limited to:

  • General and products liability
  • Business travel accident
  • Kidnap and ransom
  • Automobile coverage
  • Property and transit

Regardless of the type of policy obtained, it is best to ensure that coverage applies the entire time that employees travel abroad – 24 hours a day. It is important to understand the specific policy language. A knowledgeable broker can help build the policy and ensure endorsements, such as 24-hour coverage, are addressed.

Once the best travel coverage is identified and acquired for the organization, the next step involves communicating the details of the policy to all departments and employees.

2. Communicate Coverage Details

Effective communication goes beyond notifying a company’s own departments. That communication should also be specifically addressed to all employees who travel abroad so that they know the details of their policy before they step on a plane or pack their suitcase. Many organizations include these details on a company intranet or will give them to managers to share with employees. Carriers and brokers can create wallet cards for traveling employees with policy details and contact information. In addition, carrier partners typically provide instant access to key travel information via mobile apps and other tools while the employee prepares for travel or is abroad.

The most effective communication plan has a risk management aspect to it as well. There is an opportunity for employers to share tips for staying safe while traveling abroad.

These details can be tailored to where employees are traveling and any specific information related to the country in question. Another resource many employers use in accessing international travel risks is the travel advisories found on the U.S. Department of State website, Travel.State.Gov. This can be a valuable tool to stay up to date on relevant information about the destination country.

3. Clarify the Claims Process

Any employee communications should not just inform the employee about the types of coverage in place or facts about the destination, but should also emphasize what to do in the event of an injury or illness abroad that requires filing a claim. Communication tools, whether it is a wallet card or a mobile app, should provide specific instructions to employees overseas. Moreover, designated employees in the home office should have a thorough understanding of the claims and incident management process. International claims are often complex. There may be a preapproval process for payments and other requirements.

Time differences, language barriers and unfamiliar health care systems only complicate matters. Swift and accurate actions are critical. It is important to work with a carrier whose travel assistance team has 24/7 access to the claims department. It is also important to work with a broker that has the requisite experience and knowledge to successfully guide a claim to its desired outcome.

A Better Approach to International Travel Coverage

Maintaining effective international insurance coverage is not just good business practice, it also demonstrates to your employees that you are taking a proactive approach to their health and safety. As an informed employer, you can provide much-needed peace of mind for international travelers. Offering such a benefit depends on first securing adequate coverage and then sharing the necessary details to employees. It is also critical to have trusted partners to ensure you are building the right coverage and providing ongoing support to proper communication tools and claims resources.


To better illustrate some of the common issues surrounding international travel insurance, here’s a brief case study detailing some established best practices:

A U.S. salesperson attended an annual sales meeting in Italy. She spent the morning at business meetings and then afterwards took part in a hiking excursion at her own leisure. While hiking, she fell and broke her leg. Since the injury did not occur in the course and scope of her work, it is questionable whether her injury would trigger coverage under an endorsed workers’ compensation policy. Even if it is covered, the loss may be subject to a high deductible for the employer and other potential limitations.

However, the company has an international package policy including business travel coverage with a 24-hour coverage endorsement with a $0 deductible. The employee, who was carrying a wallet card with key contact information, contacted the carrier’s travel assistance team immediately and notified her HR department. The carrier partner approved and coordinated her medical care locally. Then, they arranged her flight home once her leg was stabilized.

Most Businesses Don’t adequately cover employees who travel

Traditional medical insurance coverage extends to employees who travel abroad for work occasionally. But employees taking on humanitarian efforts in unstable countries need more coverage. Here’s what you need to know about international health benefits and how to keep your employees safe.

Mind (All) the Gaps

Most employers provide business travel accident insurance policies that cover injury, dismemberment and death. Some add workers’ compensation, and the exact coverage varies. Business travel accident insurance—alongside a medical policy from Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna or Aetna—may protect employees who travel for a week or two overseas, but it’s not enough for expats living abroad who need emergency medical and security coverage.

Employers first need to understand their existing overseas travel insurance policies—what they have and the extent of protection—and then need to identify the gaps. This can be easier said than done, as it may involve several consultants and contracts across an organization.

A large, international, non-profit client of Corporate Synergies recently expanded its humanitarian efforts, and we needed to boost protection for emergencies and security. First, we examined the organization’s existing insurance policies to understand what they already covered and, more important, what was not covered. We learned that most major medical insurance carriers offer an international component to extend coverage to international medical and dental emergencies, prescription drugs or replacement medications, and medical evacuation. We issued an RFP to carriers and worked with the client to give its employees access to a global network of providers.

Solve for Medical Emergencies

Medical insurance and business travel accident insurance typically cover employees traveling for short periods of time, helping if someone loses a passport or luggage or gets sick. But employees traveling for several weeks or months at a time, especially to unstable countries where there’s political unrest, need better access to medical care and security services. These employees won’t be able to use the socialized medical services that exist in some countries.


Develop a Formal Travel Policy

It’s a good idea to educate employees when they book travel on how to get help if they need it while overseas. Our nonprofit client created a push notification for this purpose. When an employee books travel, the system alerts HR immediately so HR can ensure the individual is aware of all coverage and gets the proper training before leaving for a trip. HR also reminds travelers to download the app, and the company holds seminars to teach travelers how to log in, access providers, add travel details and more.

Review International Policies Frequently

Willis Global Benefits Study

Today’s employees are struggling with financial and health-related issues that impact their wellbeing, and employers are taking note. Designing benefits plans to help workers manage and maintain their health and finances — and thus remain engaged and productive at work — is a top priority for companies around the globe.

But how can employers meet the diverse needs of today’s multigenerational workforce? Younger workers are facing job insecurity, student debt and high housing costs, while baby boomers are approaching retirement, working longer in greater numbers and are concerned about their health and retirement savings.

In addition, the shift from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) plans is leaving many workers feeling vulnerable, as it places more responsibility on workers to manage both the costs and risks associated with their financial futures. At the same time, much of the world has seen relatively slow economic growth over the past decade, making it harder for employers to pay for the rising costs in benefits or to significantly increase worker pay to meet increasing demands.

The challenge of providing benefits that satisfy everyone is leading employers to reassess their benefits packages in two main ways:Contact UsTalk to an expertYou’re ready to create vital connections between employee wellbeing, benefits preferences and workplace performance.Let’s unlock possibilities together. keyboard_arrow_right

  1. Provide greater benefits choice to meet a growing and broader range of needsEmployers are looking to maximize the value of their benefits spend by providing programs that better meet their employees’ needs. The idea of increasing choice and flexibility in benefits programs is not new, however, technological advances are removing some of the roadblocks associated with providing greater choice; reducing the administrative burden and tackling engagement challenges. The emergence of flexible and streamlined administration platforms is enabling a more efficient and customized benefits delivery approach.This suggests a new benefits deal for employees, with more flexibility and choice and a broader focus. But for this new deal to be effective, employers must understand their workforces’ wants and needs, and actively engage employees in their benefits decisions. The traditional methods to encourage engagement — communication, education and incentives — have had limited success. Employers are increasingly looking toward using nudges and social connections to motivate sustainable behavior change.
  2. Focus on integrated wellbeingTraditionally, employers have offered stand-alone benefits to address specific issues. But such a narrow view can only go so far to address the broader challenges employees face today. As such, employers are embracing the challenge to address employees’ total wellbeing. This is not as simple as offering a few targeted programs; these are complex issues that need to be tackled as a whole and with the support of the people closest to us. Employers recognize the need to take an integrated approach to helping employees thrive physically, achieve financial security, attain emotional balance and build strong personal connections.

Key findings

These two forces are leading employers to seek to create a new benefits deal. Willis Towers Watson’s 2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey reveals five key findings for employers in doing so:

  1. Promote financial securityMany employees are living paycheck to paycheck, and most workers fear they are falling behind on their retirement savings. These financial worries are having a wider impact: Financial issues are strongly linked to stress and anxiety, poor health, unhealthy lifestyles and reduced job effectiveness. Responding to these stresses, workers are seeking more support from their employers via enhanced benefits deals, with many willing to sacrifice pay in exchange.
  2. Meet the needs of a changing workforceWhile employees are looking for greater security in their benefits packages, what security means can vary widely by age, gender, salary, life circumstance and individual outlook. One size does not fit all.If benefits packages are to meet individual needs, employers need to protect core benefits while offering flexibility and choice. Today’s employment deal will need to evolve to encompass a broader range of employee benefits, including voluntary as well as workplace perks.
  3. Enable choice and help employees make smart decisionsHow can it make sense for employers to think about expanding choices and broadening the benefits deal, when employees often struggle with the complexity of choices they already face?One option is to narrow and make more manageable the range of choices offered to employees; however, our research suggests employees typically prefer a wider, not narrower, array of options. The question then becomes, how can employers effectively support this? Traditionally, employers have focused on education and communication to help employees make more informed decisions. While this works for some employees it clearly does not work for all, technology and decision-support tools to guide smarter choices are increasingly the favored options for employees.
  4. Flexible work arrangementsThe world of work is evolving, and organizations are adapting to new workforce demands. Alongside a greater focus on choice and flexibility across benefits, employers are looking to modernize policies on flexible work and leave arrangements that allow employees to better manage their work/life balance. Our research highlights the value of such policies: Workplace flexibility is closely linked with how much employees appreciate their benefits and the desire to remain with their employer.
  5. Leverage social connections to drive employee wellbeingTo promote sustainable behavior change, employers are moving away from a focus on incentives and penalties and moving toward using nudges and social connections (via the wider workplace culture and employee community groups). Our research reveals a strong correlation between a socially connected workforce and many behaviors that promote wellbeing, such as participating in healthy activities, lowering levels of stress and anxiety, and taking positive steps to improve financial situations. For employers, enhancing social connections is potentially a key new lever to improve employee engagement in benefits programs.

Global Companies Require International Long Term Benefits. Not short term.

Global market goes both ways

From Singapore, Charlie Ferguson runs an “employer of record” — a way for companies to hire people in different countries without having to open their own business there.

For him, where businesses are based or the location where a task gets completed does not need to be as fixed and permanent as an office tower in an Australian capital.White collar jobs next in lineWhile the COVID-19 recession has so far overwhelmingly affected young hospitality workers, older white collar employees are about to feel their share of the pain.Read more

“I would direct attention to the overseas expansion opportunities for small-to-medium and large businesses in Australia,” said Mr Ferguson, Globalization Partners’ general manager for the Asia-Pacific region.

“The go-between sees the potential for Australian companies to expand, matched by putting Australian workers into a globally accessible talent pool.

“So the opportunity for workers — not only in the major (cities) on the east coast and Perth in the west, but also in the regions — to now have access to a global job market is a tremendous opportunity.

“I’m a constant optimist, but I think it’s a glass-half-full story, not a scary story.”

Out of offices, out of cities

High unemployment looks set to drag on people’s lives, and the economy, for years.

Technology and the drive to business process outsourcing opens up regional — and global — competition to previously protected and high-wage jobs.Why unemployment is worse than it seemsFor years, rising underemployment has meant the unemployment rate is only part of the jobs picture. Amid the COVID-19 shutdown and stimulus that has become more true than ever.Read more

The dispersed, piecemeal work may benefit some people, but has the potential to be a precarious and insecure way to base employment.

“It’s a massive opportunity within the entire labour market,” said Frances Quinn, who consults to the BPO sector.

“To realise that I don’t need to have a full-time payroll person and a full-time marketing person and a full-time facilities person in my organisation in order to deliver the outcomes that my organisation needs to deliver.”

The tools for remote working — email, video-conferencing and file-sharing — have been available for almost two decades, but Australian companies have been loath to allow employees to work from home, even as commuting times have exploded due to suburban population growth.

Whether the response to the pandemic is a permanent shift away from what has been magnetic growth in the major capital cities will have to wait to be seen.

But proponents like Ms Quinn see the normalisation of work-from-home practices — and more business process outsourcing — as inevitable for Australian companies.Australians seek regional affordabilityReal estate agents say COVID-19 has sparked a new wave of enquiries from Australians interested in moving from capital cities to regional areas.Read more

“The pandemic has forced their hand in creating some of that flexibility,” she said.

“And that might start to tip them over the edge to realising that there is another way.”

Sitting on her veranda, a half-hour from the nearest traffic light, paraplanner Rachel Bragg feels the change.

She grew up in Coolaman, near Wagga Wagga, and watched young people like herself leave town to find work opportunities.

“Because there’s no industry, there’s no work there for people,” she said.

“One of the main reasons for creating this business is so we can create those jobs and you don’t need to go into an office.

“You can effectively have the big-city jobs but out in rural communities. It’s important.”

Jobs are Moving Everywhere

Ahead of the 2020 election, Donald Trump and administration officials have claimed the era of offshoring American jobs and factories is “over”, but even through the pandemic US corporations have continued to lay off employees and send their work abroad.

Petitions for trade adjustment assistance (TAA) – a government scheme designed to soften the blow from jobs sent overseas – shows that about 37,000 workers had their positions sent overseas between 15 March and 31 July 2020, , a nearly identical rate to the same timeframe in 2019.

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Bed, Bath & Beyond shut down a call center in Layton, Utah, last month, displacing 286 workers and sending the work abroad to the Philippines through a contractor.

“They actually tricked people into training these other people. The way they worded it was they’re bringing the contractor to help out with the overflow. I was never told in any form I was training people to take my job,” said a laid-off call center employee who requested to remain anonymous due to a confidentiality agreement.

“For them to make the change with the layoffs, when they did, was the biggest slap in the face for employees. There was no need to do it in the middle of a pandemic.”

Bed, Bath & Beyond did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Workers were told in an email the layoffs were part of a restructuring plan.

Since Trump’s inauguration on 20 January 2017 to 31 July 2020, over 308,000 workers have been certified for trade adjustment assistance benefits. Trump campaigned on promises to stop offshoring, and workers at companies that have shut down or scaled back operations, including AT&TCarrier in Indiana, Siemens in Iowa and Nabisco in Illinois, have criticized the lack of support for workers once he took office.

As part of restructuring ahead of bankruptcy, Brooks Brothers decided to shed their “Made In America” commitment and shut down three clothing factories in the US in July 2020. The company will rely on production abroad, displacing up to 700 workers in the US.

“It’s tough for everybody. We didn’t expect the company to close it. People have been here for 30 to 40 years,” said Pedro Lopez, president of Unite Here local 187 who worked at the Brooks Brothers’ Southwick factory in Haverhill, Massachusetts, for over 10 years. He hasn’t found other employment out of fear of making his 92-year-old mother, who he cares for, sick from coronavirus.

In a recent policy paper, Owen Herrnstadt, the IAM’s chief of staff to the international president and director of trade and globalization, disputed claims from the Trump administration that current trade policies were bringing back jobs to the US, citing the continued influx of TAA petitions, the lack of progress in reversing job losses abroad, and promised jobs from corporations such as Foxconn in Wisconsin that never panned out.

“We cannot simply turn around offshoring by doing what the current administration has done: tweeting out tariffs and issuing executive orders ‘encouraging’ companies to use domestic sourcing,” Herrnstadt argued.

report published in August 2020 by the Economic Policy Institute noted that between 2016 to 2018, the latest year of available data, nearly 1,800 manufacturing factories in the US had disappeared. The report notes coronavirus has further hit manufacturing with the loss of 740,000 jobs this year, and trade deficits that drive offshoring, particularly with China and Mexico, have continued to increase under Trump.

Among the TAA petitions filed during the pandemic are 403 workers in Buffalo, New York, at Panasonic who will be displaced at the end of September 2020. The petition says Tesla and other companies are switching to purchase solar products from China and existing production will be sent overseas to Malaysia.

On 15 September, 500 workers at the Asarco copper processing plant in Hayden, Arizona, will be displaced as the mining company plans to ship concentrate that was to be processed in Arizona to Mexico. Some 110 workers at an Amarillo, Texas-based Asarco refinery are also being impacted. The displacement comes shortly after Asarco workers ended a nine-month strike in July 2020 after a NLRB ruling in their favor over new contract negotiations.

Winoa USA shut down its Redford, Virginia-based steel abrasive plant in June 2020, sending the production equipment abroad to Canada and France. Thirty-eight workers were affected by the shudown.

“It was very sudden. We didn’t have a lot of notice. Obviously the market had been up and down prior to that due to Covid, but we were all optimistic up until the decision was made to close the doors to the plant,” said a worker at the plant who requested to remain anonymous due to a confidentiality agreement. “I’m currently still unemployed, searching for work. Hopefully I can change that in the near future. It’s put me in a tough position.”

Brooks Brothers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.Topics