Dangers of employers overlooking healthcare abroad
When it comes to exploring new opportunities abroad, the temptation for businesses can be to jump straight in, and learn on the job and from mistakes. But when it comes to looking after employees, such a cavalier approach can’t be taken, and preparations must be made in advance to ensure their health is adequately protected when travelling to a new country. Just as conducting thorough due diligence into a new market is advised when investigating new business opportunities, due diligence is also important when looking at the health landscape – such as the risk of disease, quality of hospitals and treatments available - to better protect employees.
- Research countries for health risks
Before departing for a new country, it’s important that employees have the correct vaccinations and understand how to stay healthy – such as only drinking bottled water to avoid diseases such a cholera and typhoid. Although it may sound obvious, businesses and individuals can get so wrapped up in the excitement of exploring a new market – from sourcing suppliers to finding a new home – the basics, such as healthcare provisions, can be forgotten.
Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) for the latest information about each country an employee is sent to and encourage them to do the same, so they are equally knowledgeable and informed.
- Prepare for worst case scenarios
Getting sick abroad can be a scary experience, without the familiarity of home and its medical facilities. If the right insurances aren’t in place too, employees can face a hefty bill for treatment – or worse still, be denied medical attention altogether. That’s why it’s vital to understand what provisions the country requires to access medical treatment, and put various insurances in place before an employee steps into a new country.
If an employee is in a remote location too, evacuation cover should be in place if medical facilities aren’t robust and specialist care is needed. This may be required where rare diseases are concerned for example, as they can be more difficult to diagnose and may demand specialist treatment.
- Long memories clouding decisions
It’s important that markets aren’t discounted, based on long memories of its history. The story of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa gripped the world media between 2014-2016, yet despite the World Health Organisation declaring all known chains in the area to have stopped – tourism rates in particular have never recovered. Fears around the outbreak remain so severe, that tourism and business opportunities are potentially being missed due to outdated information.
The message throughout is to not make assumptions when exploring new markets for business opportunities. Whether assuming employees have organised their own healthcare provisions, or a country isn’t worthwhile exploring due to its history, thorough research of official channels can help to ensure that information is up-to-date and accurate – aiding the best chance for success all round.
Employers have a duty of care to look after employees’ wellbeing, so ensuring they are fully protected before they travel is important. Make sure research about healthcare provisions is conducted in advance, and knowledge is maintained during an assignment, helping to put businesses and individuals in a good position to succeed.
Sarah Dennis is Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, which she joined in 2014 following over 17 years working as a consultant and in senior management roles in international health insurance companies including Jelf Group, Norwich Union Healthcare (Aviva UK), HealthCare International, Goodhealth Worldwide Ltd. (Aetna...