06 December 2022

Changing work patterns mean employers need help to navigate global health and wellbeing support

A rise in short-term assignments, post-Covid regrowth in business travel, and more recruitment of local nationals, mean businesses with overseas staff are being impacted by an increasing need for specialist in-country support for health and wellbeing. Employers need help now in navigating the complexities of global support, according to Towergate Health & Protection.

Trend towards regionalised health and wellbeing

There is an increasing need for health and wellbeing support to be provided at a local level, specific to the country in which an employee is based. Many employees now expect more support, and some countries have restrictions on health cover from outside countries, so employers need specialist in-country expertise and advice on how to deliver appropriate and compliant health and wellbeing.

Knowledge gaps

With some areas and industries now seeing high growth and changes to work patterns, they need to act quickly. Those in tech or pharmaceuticals, fast-growing start-ups, and those with employees across several global regions, are finding themselves with a myriad of different rules and regulations to follow at local level.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “As a global employer, you don’t know what you don’t know. This is where benchmarking and expert local advice come to the fore. There is an increasing need for regional experts who are able to advise on exactly what is and isn’t covered in each country, and what support must be put in place before the employee starts work or even travels there.”

For example, in Norway1 membership of the national health insurance system is compulsory but guarantees free medical care. It is also compulsory for salaried employees to have insurance to cover benefits during pregnancy or illness. But in Australia,2 there is a combination of direct patient charges, voluntary insurance, and a national Medicare programme. While costs are government-subsidised, most patients are still required to pay for prescriptions.

All countries have their own systems, regulations, and rules, which must be navigated by employers. The knowledge gaps are potentially huge, with increased in-country recruiting meaning there is even more for an employer to know and understand. Taking expert advice at local level is vital.

Legal requirements

While providing health and wellbeing support to employees in the UK and abroad is something all responsible and conscientious employers will want to do, there are also legal requirements that need to be met. These too can differ per country with work visas often relying on the right criteria and provision being met.

Benefit design

With employees across more than one country, benefit design becomes more complicated. In today’s political and financial climate, it may be necessary to have a support package tailored to each workforce, in each country. A company, for example, with employees in 70 countries, may need 70 separate policies to ensure that each member of staff is properly supported. In-country experts will be able to advise on exactly what health and wellbeing support is provided in each country, what statutory demands an employer must meet for their employees, and what additional support will be expected.

However, it’s also a good idea for companies with multiple locations to also investigate multi-national pooling: having benefits under one roof with one provider for employees across a number of locations. The pros and cons need to be considered, so employers can choose the option that’s right for them.

Sarah Dennis concludes: “While different packages for each workforce may seem like a headache for the employer, if they are properly advised then they could actually save time and money. This needs to be weighed up against other options including multi-national pooling, which specialists can advise on. Global employers need a response to today’s changing working patterns, but the good news is there is help out there to guide them in the process.”


1. Norway - Health and welfare | Britannica
2. Australia - Health and welfare | Britannica