Mercer Marsh Benefits

Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Top three focus areas for global benefit managers

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Global Benefit Managers (GBMs) around the world are facing a number of issues related to the unfolding Russia-Ukraine conflict. Many of the skills and tools developed during the pandemic will aid these professionals in their response. These include collaborating with other teams, supporting employees during difficult times, and working with agility.

Here are three ways in which benefit managers can play their part

1. Support your workforce

The top priority is providing support to employees and dependents typically based in Ukraine, many of whom may have left the country as refugees. Consider how you can assist with basic needs including food, transportation, communications, healthcare, housing, cash, and legal assistance (especially regarding immigration matters). Existing response teams and providers — for example, travel assistance providers, employee assistance programs (EAPs), mobility vendors, law firms, payroll providers, and insurers in neighboring countries — may be able to offer a range of supports.

Be aware that important insurance coverages such as life and medical insurance provided in Ukraine are likely no longer operating normally. You may want to explore the possibility of adding people to your policies in the country they have fled to or consider temporary international plans.

For employees based in neighboring countries, an increased need for many of the above support mechanisms may also apply, especially if they are helping family members. Other ways to help include:

  1. Providing additional time off for volunteering and caregiving for those impacted directly.
  2. Relaxing certification requirements for leaves.
  3. Promoting mental health programs, such as relevant EAPs and available psychology and counselling resources (note that it will be important to take into account any supply capacity challenges).

Our “Supporting your employees during the crisis in Ukraine” blog provides additional ideas as to how you can aid individuals indirectly impacted by what’s happening, who may be feeling helpless or even distressed. Good communication is critical, as is delivering any necessary mental health, charitable, and social support.

Let employees know what you are doing to support people in the greater conflict region, even if you don’t have operations there. Beyond that, flexibility, supportive leadership, and thoughtful communications can help those affected know that you care.

2. Engage with your business resilience, retirement, mobility, operational, and legal teams

Disruptions to insurance and services in the impacted region will need to be closely monitored and managed throughout this crisis. Personal dilemmas such as “Am I covered if I travel to the region?” will emerge.

The crisis will create problems related to issues such as health and risk protection coverage, pension fund investments, and a range of mobility concerns. Challenges will include urgent requirements for cash payments, business travel expenses, and payroll in multiple countries due to the sanctions regimes being imposed by the international community. A coordinated approach across HR, risk, and legal/compliance teams will be a critical part of any effective response.

The sanctions are complex, far-reaching, and evolving. Benefit managers responsible for employee benefit insurance policies in Russia are advised to discuss the status of provider relationships, open/upcoming policies, and placements with their global broker and legal teams. It should be noted that we are aware of some insurers that are owned or controlled by financial institutions that are subject to sanctions and we will continue to monitor developments.

3. Plan for what is coming next

Pension fund investments and mobility issues are likely to mount, for example, as business operations are closed, relocated, and reopened.

Many employees will be seeking permanent or temporary employment in a new country. We have already seen some employers start to plan such arrangements for their Ukrainian employees who are now working remotely away from their homeland.

Employers closing or suspending operations in Russia will need to consider how they can help their local employees avoid any abrupt loss of healthcare and risk protection benefits. For workforces in Ukraine, Russia, and other affected countries, a range of social security issues will ultimately need to be considered and addressed.

General employee health and well-being will require a proactive approach. Given the limited supply of clinicians in Eastern Europe, demand for healthcare that can be delivered virtually using other available resources will evolve, but is likely to face challenges.

The majority of refugees are women and children, whose issues are often underrepresented in traditional coverage plans. Employers may want to consider services that address their needs and work with organizations that focus on these populations.

Finally, with only 35% of the Ukrainian population fully vaccinated[1] for COVID-19, pandemic-related challenges, among other public health pressures, are only likely to get work.

New needs will emerge in the coming days, months, and years as a result of this conflict. Ongoing monitoring and updating of plans, and collaboration across the enterprise, will be critical to providing the support employees need now and in the long term.

We are closely monitoring the crisis in Ukraine. Our immediate focus is the safety and security of our colleagues and supporting clients. 


[1] Our World in Data, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations.” Available at https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations?country=OWID_WRL.

February 23, 2022.

Meet the authors

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Amy Laverock

Global Strategic Initiatives and Solutions Leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits

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Barry Perkins

MMB Multinational Financing & Carrier Relations Leader

A message from Marsh Mclennan

Ukraine: Navigating an international crisis

We are closely monitoring the crisis in Ukraine and are horrified by the events unfolding there. Our immediate focus is the safety and security of our colleagues and supporting clients. The human challenges are staggering, and the impact is likely to grow.