Are your healthcare benefits fit for a global workforce?
As global mobility makes a welcome return after the Covid-19 pandemic, the new world of work and changing employee expectations are leading businesses to better align their reward and benefits strategies globally.
Driven by a need to attract talent across borders, benefits are evolving to become more cohesive and more equitable in a post-pandemic world.
This has been most acutely felt in the field of health and medical provision, where there is undoubtedly a raised anxiety level around accessing healthcare.
So, what should employers consider when it comes to providing multinational benefits in this new era?
1. Aim to be consistent
In 2023, it is important that benefits are consistent, equitable and, as far as possible, globally aligned. People who are on global assignments inevitably talk to each other. So, for example, if someone on a six-month assignment has full benefits, but another on a 12-month assignment receives a reduced package, that’s likely to be a problem.
2. Get the ‘global-local’ balance right
Deciding whether local or global healthcare provision is most suitable is important.
Companies need to be clear on their policy and understand what the impact is on everyone in terms of where they will be based, whether they will move locations and how long they will stay. A two-year stay in one location may seem best suited to a localised policy, but, if followed by a two-year assignment in another region, a global policy may be more suitable.
Long-term considerations need to be looked at to ensure suitability of the chosen benefit route. Individuals could feel they have lost out if the provision in their next location is less generous in a market where global benefits are rarely transferable to local benefits or vice-versa.
3. Embrace the rise of global technology
For many businesses, providing global healthcare cover for all employees is cost-prohibitive. But there are an increasing number of benefits that lend themselves to a global policy, including global employee assistance programmes and virtual GPs.
Wellbeing apps are another popular choice that can create engagement from a health and wellbeing perspective across all countries and locations – and can be a cost effective choice. It’s important to select the right provider to meet your employees’ needs and the locations in which they are based.
4. Drive diversity, equity and inclusion
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic in 2023, especially in UK markets. When sending employees abroad to work, employers should ensure they are applying the same approaches that they do in their UK DEI strategy and, where appropriate and possible, apply it to their global benefits strategies, too.
The latest Deloitte Global Mobility Trends report suggests only one in five international assignees are women, so companies need to consider a different approach to recruitment globally as well as locally. Employers should also look at their benefits package to ensure they are offering an equitable solution.
Maternity cover, for example, is often a bolt-on to an international medical insurance policy and not included as standard. In Singapore for example, a routine maternity procedure could cost £18,000, and the cost even more for a caesarean birth. So it’s important to check that benefits meet the needs of all genders and the locations they are in.
There are still challenges in delivering equitable benefits for all. For example, for same sex couples there are territories where the local laws mean that some situations cannot be addressed. In other countries such as in the Middle East, mental health is not recognised or widely supported as a medical condition but these issues should not deter businesses from seeking solutions that embrace DEI and deliver consistent benefits for all.
5. Consider environmental, social, and governance’ (ESG)
Many employees will want to know that the environment and their carbon footprint have been considered when sent on a global assignment.
Employers should consider measures to offset global travel and think about ensuring that benefit providers also have socially and environmentally responsible approaches and ESG strategies.
Developments in global benefits include a shopping app which an employee can use to track and monitor the environmental impact of brands they spend money on.
6. Understand ‘working from anywhere’
The rise of technology combined with the pandemic has resulted in increased flexibility and employees’ ability to be able to work from almost anywhere worldwide.
This creates a conundrum for a global mobility benefits strategy if someone is electing to work virtually and what they should be entitled too. Much comes down to whether an employee is on a localised contract or a global contract, but there are complications, especially after Brexit.
A UK contract may provide a health policy in which pre-existing conditions are covered, for example, whereas a local contract in another country may require full underwriting. It’s essential that employers understand their cover and how transferrable benefits are.
7. Minimise the effect of inflation
Rising inflation is an issue in global mobility, especially when it comes to medical provision. On average, medical inflation currently sits at around 8-10% depending on locational factors.
The cost-of-living crisis is inevitably exacerbating the situation, with increased energy and labour costs, meaning the likelihood of increased medical facility charges, and in turn higher insurance claims.
Fortunately, the insurance market is starting to adapt and coming up with cost-containment methods that don’t just mean stripping benefits back or putting in excesses. International benefits consultants, like Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, are also coming up with solutions to help make renewal increases more sustainable too.
The bottom line is that as global mobility returns and the pandemic recedes, many businesses will find trends and employee expectations have also shifted. Aligning benefits globally is more important than ever.
In partnership with Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing
Howden provides insurance broking, risk management and claims consulting services, globally. We work with clients of all sizes to provide dedicated employee benefits & wellbeing consultancy.