COVID-19 highlights importance of supporting expat staff

COVID-19 highlights importance of supporting expat staff | Insurance Business

COVID-19 highlights importance of supporting expat staff

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, getting benefits programmes right for expatriate employees has become even more important, according to a report by Willis Towers Watson.

As expected, concerns related to employee benefits in Asia-Pacific have mostly been related to coverage for testing and treatment of COVID-19, the report said. These include potential coverage exclusions, the possibility of needing supplemental cover, as well as the availability of services to support employees’ emotional wellbeing. Concerns over medical cover due to employment uncertainty have also been aired.

The pandemic’s effects, such as the prolonged impact of working from home, and anxiety and worries about health and job security have resulted in increased demand for Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide mental and emotional support for employees.

According to the report, 53% of multinational firms it surveyed have a global EAP. Meanwhile, 43% align the expat wellbeing program as part of a wider corporate initiative, and 30% offer additional wellbeing benefits to international assignees and their dependents.

Due to the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus, telemedicine has grown in demand versus traditional visits to medical facilities. However, it has its limitations, as it is not feasible for ongoing treatment of medical conditions.

Typical health and wellbeing benefits for expatriates include healthcare, life, accident, and disability coverage. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2017 and 2019 IME surveys, more than 90% of respondents offered international (IPMI) plans rather than home or host country plans for their international assignees.

“Given the escalating costs for healthcare globally, more employers are considering employee cost-sharing in order to continue offering competitive coverage at a manageable cost,” said James Leung, head of expatriate benefits and high-end medical solutions for Asia & Australasia at Willis Towers Watson. “We expect this trend to continue given the growing economic concern.”