13 July 2022

Employers need to be aware of limitations of business and leisure travel insurance for employees working overseas

With corporate travel back on the agenda for many businesses, Towergate Health & Protection is urging employers to be aware of the limitations of business and leisure travel insurance for their staff that work overseas. While it’s vital for shorter trips, it is not adequate for long-term assignments.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection says: “Travel insurance is appropriate for short business trips and short-term work assignments, but for long-term assignments, employees will need more.”

Levels of support

Overseas workers need business travel insurance for curtailment, cancellation of flights, lost baggage, medical emergencies, repatriation, etc. However, anyone on an overseas assignment for around 120 days may also need health as well as travel insurance, depending on their medical history.

Standard travel insurance will cover some medical costs, which can be particularly useful for emergencies. However, for employees working abroad on longer term assignments, or who make regular trips abroad, travel insurance is not fit for purpose, and they will need access to more support.

No NHS abroad

There is no NHS abroad and many nations do not have state-funded healthcare at all. Employees in the UK have access to the NHS for areas such as cancer, maternity and musculoskeletal; this is not the case for those overseas. Employees on short business trips can return to the UK for any medical treatment if needed, but if people are away long-term, they will need to have access to such support in-country.

Other health issues can arise that need to be checked out; chronic conditions need to be managed; and everyday areas like dental treatment need to be supported.

In addition, while screening is commonplace in the UK, employees abroad may not have the same access to this, as other countries may not have state-funded screening programmes. Screening, diagnostics, and early intervention are all vital elements to ensure better health outcomes for people, and it’s important they’re made available for employees overseas.

Sarah Dennis continues: “When an employee is working abroad on long-term assignments, they need as much, if not more, health and wellbeing support as employees based in the UK.”

Other areas, such as preventative care, early intervention and support for mental health are all vital elements that need to be offered – to not only fully support staff – but to be a competitive employer too.

Employees working abroad often expect more from their employers, and in addition, dependants may also need support. Business and leisure travel insurance has its place, indeed it’s vital for short-term assignments, but it’s important that employers understand the limitations of it, are aware of the support needed, and ensure their employees are properly looked after, and that often means providing access to much fuller support.