Global mobility and health insurance: the challenges, risks and opportunities


Since Covid-19 hit, there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards employee benefits and wellbeing provision, and in particular healthcare insurance. According to a survey we undertook last September, almost three in every four employers said they would be reviewing their employee benefits provision for workers as a direct result. For businesses with global workforces, this is even more imperative.

Global mobility and health insurance: the challenges, risks and opportunities

For many employers, the world of global mobility and health insurance has become increasingly confusing. The crisis has impacted both individuals and businesses in unprecedented ways and, as a result, some healthcare policies are having to change.

For example, some companies are reducing coverage to a local domestic policy as they need to save costs, and being globally mobile isn’t currently a viable option. Conversely, others are finding some employees are spending longer overseas living with family or in their holiday homes, and so are looking to expand their global health policy as a result.

Some corporate schemes are shrinking due to redundancies, while others are expanding as employees relocate for personal reasons or because there is increased industry demand in their market.

One thing is clear; the impacts of the current climate are varied and specific to each organisation, and there are risks and challenges that companies need to consider as a result.

The challenges and risks

The Covid-19 restrictions demonstrate that many people can work from anywhere and this is likely to continue post-pandemic. One of the key challenges for organisations is that some employees may decide to relocate overseas as they have proved that they can work just as effectively remotely.

This throws up lots of questions about whether the domestic or international healthcare cover employers provide will still be relevant. Companies need to consider whether they need to provide healthcare cover for employees in this situation or if insurance becomes the responsibility of the individual employee.

Issues can arise around pre-existing conditions, so it is prudent for employers to carefully check policies before any employee relocates abroad. This ensures that everyone understands what is and is not covered.

As an example, a client’s employee recently decided to relocate to Europe. They were mid-cancer treatment and the domestic cover they had isn’t available overseas. When the employee tried to get individual healthcare cover, the cover excluded the cancer treatment. In this scenario the cost of treatment is down to the individual. 

With more employees working remotely now, it can be difficult for organisations to keep track of where they are all working, especially if they have a large workforce. However, if employers do not know where their employees are working, this can throw up security risks, as well as health risks.

The risks to the organisation of not knowing where in the world someone is working from involves the sharing of data and differences in regulations. From a health insurance point of view, they may not have the right medical cover for the country they are in. Also routine medications and treatments a person may need may not be available in that location. Organisations and individuals need to be clear about these risks.

These risks and challenges can be overcome, but they highlight that any relocation must be planned carefully. It’s crucial to check policies and benefits beforehand so there are no unwelcome surprises.

Opportunities post-pandemic

As well as challenges, there are opportunities too. Now is the time for companies to review their approach, not just on medical insurance and international benefits provision, but also their global mobility policies and entire benefits strategy. 

An employer brand can be enhanced by demonstrating flexibility and supporting employees in times such as these. Employees become more engaged and feel more secure knowing they have options and that their employer will support them, whether through wider benefits provision, flexible working hours or simply with communications and information.

The pandemic has changed the world of work and employers are having to adapt to this. They need to understand the demographics of their workforce, their changing health needs and where they will be working. Only through this understanding can employers tailor benefits and ensure they are truly fit for purpose, both for the employee and the organisation, wherever their people are in the world.  

The author is Adam Harding, divisional director – international benefits, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing.

This article is provided by Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing.


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