An A to Z guide for businesses sending staff abroad

A

 is for Abu Dhabi. With a prosperous oil and gas industry, the capital of the UAE boasts one of the largest expatriate workforces in the world. The law makes it mandatory for your employees that work here to have health insurance cover. There is no free medical care - insurance and health cards must be shown when receiving medical treatment. Make sure your global health policy is suitable and review the information on the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi website.

B

is for Briefing the member of staff on where they'll be living and working. Provide the employee with a comprehensive picture of what it is like to live and work in their destination country. Assignments will invariably fail when staff are inadequately briefed and are simply expected to cope as best they can.

C

is Currency. When insuring staff under an International PMI scheme, it's important to remember that irrespective of the country they are visiting, claims will generally be paid in the currency that you originally selected to pay your premium in.

D

is for Damaging reputations. Prepare employees for cultural differences to avoid inappropriate behaviour that could end up damaging for your company's reputation. Training should ideally be provided well in advance of their assignment to ease the transition into their new working environment.

E

is for EHIC. The EHIC (the European Health Insurance Card) entitles any resident in the UK to receive emergency healthcare treatment while travelling in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The card however has a number of restrictions and isn't a replacement for international health insurance. It is not normally available if you are living in another country; it will only provide access to emergency, state-provided treatment and it doesn't pay for emergency evacuation or repatriation.

F

is for Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO provides advice on working and travelling abroad. HR managers and employees should always visit the FCO website before planning a trip abroad, to stay up to date with the latest advice on medical and travel insurance requirements, details on those countries they'll be travelling to and more. Be aware that in most cases, travelling to a country against FCO advice will invalidate your insurance.

G

is Gastrointestinal problems. Gastrointestinal problems abroad are very common and account for almost half of illnesses among oversees workers. In most cases, workers simply need time to acclimatise. Prudent advice includes drinking plenty of liquids and avoiding overindulgence of food and alcohol. In some countries, employees should avoid fruit and vegetables unless they have thick skins and are well cooked. Seek advice on whether tap water is safe to drink and speak to medical specialists on how to best manage health problems.

H

is for HIV/AIDS. In some countries, medical equipment may be re-used without being properly sterilised and blood for transfusions may not be checked for HIV infection. Employers should ensure that employees relocating are fully informed of the risks. 
They should ensure medical equipment used is sterilized or taken from a sealed pack and should be aware of the risk of infection from casual sex. Some countries will ask visitors to take an HIV test or provide a test certificate.

I

is for Immunisations. Be sure to arrange vaccinations for your employees, when required, for the countries they are journeying to. An array of tropical diseases lie in wait for employees travelling abroad from Cholera and Typhoid to Hepatitis and Yellow Fever. Corporate healthcare providers will be able to supply staff with vaccinations but be aware that many vaccines take several weeks to become effective.

J

is for Jurisdictions. Be fully aware of the laws of the country you're sending employees and how will they affect you as an employer. Workers who are posted from one EU country to another on a temporary basis are covered by the Posting of Workers Directive. Under the Directive, employers must ensure your workers receive the basic key terms and conditions of the member state they've been posted to.

K

is for Kidnap and Ransom. Kidnapping of company employees generates hundreds of millions a year in ransom payments for guerilla and criminal groups around the world. Political think-tank The Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) says that economic kidnapping has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. 

With UK government policy not to pay ransoms, employers should seriously consider Kidnap and Ransom insurance cover when sending staff to volatile regions particularly areas of Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. This gives peace of mind and reassurance that security consultants are available to protect your employee and provide practical help on the ground should a problem arise.

L

is for Life Assurance. Life Assurance is one of the most affordable employee benefits but offers peace of mind for employees working in hostile and dangerous environments. A Group Life policy will give employees reassurance that should they die their family and dependants will be cared for. A lump sum payable to the employee's family is usually based on a multiple of the employees' annual salary.

M

is for Medical evacuation. Ensuring employees get the best possible care and treatment while working abroad is no easy task, particularly if suitable medical facilities are not available locally. The costs of evacuating an employee to the nearest suitable hospital or repatriating them safely home can be considerable. Air ambulance to the UK from the east coast of America, for example, will cost more than £30,000. An international health insurance policy can cover these costs.

N

is for National Insurance. If you are sending employees to work abroad and you want to keep them under the UK National Insurance scheme, you will need to notify HM Revenue and Customs. The employer must meet certain conditions before HMRC will issue E101 certificates in respect of individual employees, allowing them to continue to pay UK NICs while abroad for an initial period of up to two years.

O

is for Outpatient treatment. Be aware that with out-patient treatment abroad, often the employee must pay the bill and then claim it back from the medical insurer. This reduces the likelihood of employees being the victim of fraud. You should, however, check what the insurers' procedures are for outpatient claims - how long will it be before the claim is paid back by the insurer, for example, and does the claim require preauthorisation?

P

is for Psychological wellbeing. Employees and their families often fail to adjust to foreign cultures, feel alienated and suffer psychological distress. Provide employees with a comprehensive picture of what it is like to live and work in their destination country and assess the level of support they'll require when they've relocated. It is advisable to provide assignees with Employee Assistance Programmes and, if possible, introduce them to other expatriates working in the destination.

Q

is for Q fever. Q fever is a highly infectious disease that is endemic worldwide. It is one of numerous diseases that employers and employees should be mindful of when relocating abroad. Spread by farm animals, the most common symptoms of human Q fever are flu-like and can last anywhere from one to two weeks.  It is rarely fatal but there is no human vaccination against it. Q fever hit the headlines in 2009 for significant outbreaks in the Netherlands.

R

is for Reverse culture shock. How will Daventry seem to employees after a year in Dubai? The transition back to the UK after living oversees can be a difficult one but can be eased by regular contact from HR and line managers while they're away. Employees should also be advised on what happens when their assignments end. Will their positions back in the UK have been filled? Will they have to be made redundant, or can you slot employees back into the organisation?

S

is for Safety. Conduct full health risk assessments on the destinations you staff and fully brief them on the local issues before they set off. Make them aware of local threats to their personal safety. You should also check the small print of your Employers Liability insurance. Standard Employers Liability insurance does not normally cover staff working abroad for extended periods and that country-specific policies may be required.

T

is for Travax website, an interactive online database providing up to the minute health information covering every country in the world. Advice and information is available on a range of subjects including immunisations and travel related infections. Travax is maintained and continually updated by the Travel Health Division of Health Protection Scotland (HPS).

U

is for Universally applicable collective agreements. Employers must abide by any universally applicable mandatory collective agreements which apply in the Member State they post workers to. There are, at present, no such agreements in the UK, apart from the national minimum wage.

V

is for Visas. Worldwide immigration regulations and visa requirements are becoming stricter year on year. Visa applications are being scrutinized increasingly vigorously but the key to stress-free international assignments for employees is always to seek the necessary work authorisations several weeks in advance. Businesses that leave the responsibility for visa acquisition with the employee, and offer little support, can find themselves in a difficult position.

W

is for World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations. The WHO's website provides a wealth of useful information, including details on global health concerns such as swine flu and health profiles, updates and alerts of all 193 of its member states.

X

is for XE. XE provides easy to use foreign exchange tools and services. Its Universal Currency Converter, along with other similar online currency converters, enables users to perform currency and foreign exchange calculations using live mid-market rates, at the touch of a button. This can be invaluable, for example, for managing your costs, calculating and keeping tabs on multi-currency salary payments and calculating expenses in pound sterling when employees that submit their claims in foreign currencies

Y

is for Yellow Fever. This serious viral disease occurs predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and in parts of the Caribbean. It is usually transmitted by a type of mosquito known as the Aedes aegypti. Anyone travelling to a country where the disease is a problem, or that requires a mandatory International Certificate of Vaccination against Yellow Fever for entry, should arrange to have the Yellow Fever vaccination. For more information visit the WHO website.

Z

is for Z Visa. These are granted to working foreigners in China. Entry visas marked 'Z' are only valid for 30 days during which time, employers must process year-long work permits and residence.

If your company has healthcare or medical insurance needs, call PMI Health Group on 01606 353260, request a callback or complete our contact form and find out how we can help you.