18 September 2018

Dependants of overseas staff need more support, according to new research from The Health Insurance Group

A significant number of companies are not providing dependants with the same access to health and protection benefits as they do for their employees that work abroad. New research* from The Health Insurance Group reveals only 66% of organisations provide dependants with access to the same cover as overseas employees, leaving dependants in a third of organisations having to fund their own cover. This lack of support could leave them under-insured, and cause families stress at a time when they are already coping with the challenge of adjusting to life in a new country.

Do you extend support to family members and dependants of employees that work abroad?

Settling overseas can be tough for dependants

Working overseas is an exciting prospect, a chance to discover new customs and cultures, and gain invaluable work experience. While it’s a fantastic opportunity for employees, for those that have dependants, there is a lot more to think about: their decision to work overseas affects the whole family. It is not always easy for partners and children to build a new life, and while the employee has the support of their work colleagues and a new role to throw themselves into, dependants can often feel isolated, away from familiar surroundings, friends and extended family. Settling into a new routine, new home or new school is a challenge and can be extremely stressful - affecting health and wellbeing.

Supporting dependants is key for successful overseas appointments

The inability of families to adjust to living overseas is one of the most-cited reasons** for international assignments failing. Given the important role that families play in the success of an overseas placement, it’s important for organisations to do more to provide the relevant support.

A fifth of employers offer voluntary cover only

The survey shows that 20% of employers do offer dependants some support, but this isn’t funded by the employer, leaving employees to find and pay for cover themselves. This can be a lot more expensive for an individual to buy directly, and they may not get round to buying anything, leaving them without any cover.

Around 1 in 7 employers offer no support for health and protection insurance

15% of organisations fail to provide dependants with any help or guidance at all when it comes to health and protection insurance. The problem here is that without access to specialist advice and guidance, employees won’t know what they should buy for their families and what level of cover they need, and may well buy cover that’s inadequate.

Each country has its own unique health system, rules and regulations; and different elements of cover will be required according to what these are. Depending on the location, arrangements for evacuation or repatriation may also need to form part of the cover. While 8% of employers do provide help with finding schools and relocating, this is not enough. With so many elements to consider when buying overseas health and protection, this lack of support leaves employees and their families vulnerable, and potentially underinsured.

How can employers offer more support?

Providing health cover for both employees and their dependants may not be as expensive as some employers imagine. The fact that 62% of SMEs do offer this support shows that it’s not an option only for larger organisations. For example, bespoke plans are available that offer different levels of support for employees and dependants so companies of all sizes can find cover that works for them. It is often possible to get free cover for children too. If companies do want to leave it to their employees to arrange, at the very least they should provide access to expert advice to ensure the cover purchased is appropriate and comprehensive enough.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International for The Health Insurance Group said: “Moving a family overseas is a huge decision for any employee to take. This move is far more likely to succeed if the health and wellbeing of everyone is supported. As every country has different rules and regulations, employers need to seek advice from experts to ensure their employees and their dependants are properly supported.

“As businesses are increasingly looking to expand overseas, this is only likely to become more important, and those employers that look after dependants as well as staff will be the winners.”

* The research was conducted in July 2018 for The Health Insurance Group by Opinium, it surveyed 102 HR decision makers in UK businesses, representing between 17,418 and 25,912 employees. NB: due to rounding anomalies, the figures quoted in this release add up to 101%.

** https://shieldgeo.com/reasons-expatriate-failure-international-assignments/