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Risk in Context

To Protect Employees Traveling Internationally Look Beyond Workers’ Compensation

Posted by Michael Rodgers May 19, 2016

US companies are expected to spend about $300 billion on employee travel this year, according to the Global Business Travel Association, with much of that international. As employees spend more time traveling, business’ risks grow. And the range of exposures widens: employee safety, including “everyday” risks — like car accidents — along with terrorism, political violence, natural disasters, and others.

Many of these risks can be mitigated through insurance, but it’s not simply a matter of buying a casualty program and thinking you’re done. Instead, businesses should take a broader view that includes employee benefits to manage their global employee risks.

Breaking Down Occupational and Non-Occupational Siloes

When an employee is injured while traveling internationally, several forms of commercial insurance coverage could apply, including:

  • Domestic workers’ compensation.
  • Foreign voluntary workers’ compensation (FVWC).
  • Defense Base Act insurance.
  • Personal accident coverage.

Yet, in many cases, it’s actually an employee benefits program that will respond — especially if an injured worker needs immediate assistance and there’s a question of whether casualty coverage applies.

Outside of the US, occupational and non-occupational injury management are often not clearly divided. All injuries are generally treated the same, either via public or private health care systems. And that same approach will often be used if an American is injured while traveling — even if the injury is work-related.

A classic example is endemic disease: If an American worker traveling to India contracts malaria, a workers’ compensation policy may not respond. And so an employee may need to seek out care as provided under an employee benefits program.

Taking a Holistic Approach

Rather than keeping commercial insurance and employee benefits programs siloed, risk professionals should work with their benefits teams on a holistic approach. Review your entire portfolio with your human resources colleagues, looking at it as a single program, and coordinate to eliminate gaps in coverage and support. Understand how various forms of coverage — including short- and long-term disability, life, and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) — would apply in specific scenarios.

You should also consider:

  • Structuring travel accident programs on a contingent basis, so they are triggered after casualty insurance coverages have been exhausted.
  • Jointly marketing multiple lines of coverage, especially FVWC and travel accident policies, to align coverage and services and gain certainty by having a single insurer respond to all deployed personnel claims.
  • Seeking an AD&D coverage extension to your FVWC policy to provide immediate financial relief to the families of injured or deceased colleagues.

International travel will continue to rise. Understanding the benefits of managing employee safety costs holistically can help make your company risk ready.

Related to:  Workers' Compensation

Michael Rodgers