When companies offer their employees the opportunity to relocate for a new job or position, it is an exciting time and a big move, but one that involves many small details. Overseeing these details is often the job of a relocation management company, which can coordinate many aspects of the process.
Relocation services can make the necessary arrangements on behalf of the employer, helping them manage their international workforce effectively, finding new homes and helping employees integrate into new communities. One essential element of these customised packages is the insurance arrangements.
Louise Worbey, Head of Global Mobility Operations at KPMG, encourages each member firm under the KPMG umbrella to look at a number of key issues and best practices when appointing relocation providers and agreeing on the associated insurance policy.
Worbey told ITIJ: “We would ask a number of questions around insurance coverage as part of any Request for Proposal (RFP) or due diligence in contracting with a relocation provider. The types of questions we would expect are: what are their claims records? What are their procedures in the event of a claim? What’s the typical time frame from claim to settlement?”
Her teams will ask for references from other clients relating to insurance issues and want to know how they manage insurance for the assignee’s belongings in transit, and for important or large items such as pets, cars, or boats.
The costs involved in relocation can vary widely depending on the location of the move and the expatriate’s relocation package.
Lynn Pina, Chief Marketing Officer at US-based GeoBlue, explained: “We know that expatriate assignments are more costly for organisations to manage due to the additional and unique needs associated with managing expatriates from a benefits, tax, health and compliance standpoint.
“According to a PwC survey, the average management cost per expatriate was US$22,378 per year versus $3,000 for the average of all employees, and the cost of a three-year international assignment can easily exceed $3 million according to the Society of Human Resources Management.
“One study estimates that international assignments have a failure rate of 25 to 40 per cent and the direct costs of a failed assignment can range from $250,000 to $1million. It’s therefore really important that employers take proactive steps to reduce and mitigate the risk of a failed assignment.”
Worbey of KPMG agrees that costs involved in relocation can be considerable. “We move all grades of staff, but particularly when you move more senior staff with families the costs can be significant," she said.
“It is absolutely essential to look at every family member and consider their needs in developing a relocation package that will be within policy, but also supportive enough to help them settle successfully and focus on the reason the assignment has been set up originally.
“The financial costs of a failed move can be significant. However, regardless of the financials we have a duty of care to our people that includes the mental health and wellbeing of their entire family unit – we don’t just move the employee, we move and take care of their entire family.”
Employers and relocation services can support employees in many ways
There are many areas of support that employers and relocation services can provide to help smooth the transitions associated with an international move. There are the obvious things related to relocation and language assistance. Healthcare is another major focus, as ensuring the employee and their family have adequate and appropriate access to quality healthcare is essential to ensuring that health and wellness issues do not become a barrier to the successful fulfillment of the employee's assignment.
Pina of GeoBlue added: “In 2015, the National Foreign Trade Council surveyed 2,704 expatriate employees on assignments in 156 countries with this question: what services do companies offer to prepare employees for international assignments? According to their findings, medical preparedness is the third-most-important service when it comes to embarking on an international assignment.
“Large companies with mature and sophisticated global mobility functions are well versed in these issues and usually well equipped to handle them. However, it’s not unheard of to find that small and mid-size companies haven’t even considered this aspect and will try to keep their expatriates or international commuters on standard domestic health plans, which are often not at all equipped to meet the needs of an expat for ongoing, accessible and quality routine healthcare, as well as emergencies.
Ensuring that clients have access to a full expat healthcare plan is essential
“So, a first and critical benefit should be to ensure the organisation is providing access to a true expat healthcare plan.”
Included in the insurance services offered by GeoBlue is a pre-departure programme, which helps acclimatise expats to their new environment from a healthcare perspective. Pre-departure programmes offer access to clinicians for any pre-departure questions, along with information to be aware of before departure related to common needs for employees and dependents in their new country.
Pina outlined another benefit of cover with her organisation. “Employees can also opt to take a secure questionnaire that includes questions weighted to identify risk level, both medical and geographical,” she said. “Based on specific responses and scores, our medical team determines if a member outreach would be beneficial. Those who do not reach the threshold score can still opt to request outreach from a nurse who reviews their specific healthcare needs and available resources.
“Pre-departure programmes are particularly critical for expats and their families who are managing ongoing or chronic conditions, ensuring continuity of care in their new location.”
Ensuring that provisions are adequate to assignee’s needs is critical
Worbey of KPMG added that, regarding medical insurance, it is crucial to ensure no-one falls through the gaps. In terms of coverage for each assignment ‘it is best practice to review the home and host provision and ensure it is adequate for the assignee’s needs,’ she said.
“In common with other relocating employers, we do periodically review matters, and we are conscious there are very comprehensive global schemes that can also include the option to be on a medical history disregarded basis, but these are usually used as a last resort where there is no other option to achieve coverage, due to their high premiums.
“It is also important to look at preventative care,” she explained, “and we encourage our international assignees to have a medical examination before they go on assignment, which would include being able to fully understand any requirements they may have around prescriptions and access to medication in their host country. We also support and reimburse for required vaccinations.”
Insurance can help expatriates navigate foreign healthcare systems
Understanding how the healthcare system works in a different country can be complicated. In many cases, an international health insurance plan is chosen as it can ease much of the stress – responding to queries in a familiar language.
Francois Jacquemin, CEO of Foyer Global Health, said he ‘supports expatriates on one of their main concerns when moving to another country: protecting their health and that of their families’.
His company offers medical insurance together with wellbeing services. “This means that we provide expats and their families with a safety net, as well as repatriation and assistance to another medical facility in a country where the most adequate treatment will be available to them,” Jacquemin explained.
“Employees also benefit from unlimited (24/7/365) telemedicine consultation and second medical opinion provided by globally renowned medical experts from all over the world," he added. "Lastly, we advise companies on how to take preventive actions to ensure their employees stay healthy, and we help multinational companies with real-time warning if the safety of their staff is at risk, anywhere around the world.”
New services can make a real difference to clients
Insurers are increasingly adding services that make a real difference to their clients. For example, GeoBlue strives to ‘simplify the international healthcare experience’. Pina said: “When you are far away from home in a foreign country, getting quality care and understanding the local healthcare customs and practices can be daunting.
“This is even more so in the midst of a medical crisis or emergency. Our goal every day is to help make what can be a complicated journey to access healthcare in a foreign country, simpler and easier.”
In addition to their comprehensive expat health plan, GeoBlue offers a pre-departure programme, global employee assistance programme and telemedicine service. “Our products and services are all designed to help employers protect their investment in expats and ensure those expats can get the quality healthcare they need anywhere in the world,” Pina said.
These services add value and receive positive feedback. “What’s unique about our offering is that it’s tailored to the globally mobile with culturally relevant and localised resources and support,” said Pina. “These Employee Assistance Programmes can help expats and their families deal with a variety of practical, physical or emotional issues like finding local childcare or temporary housing to short-term counselling sessions and wellness coaching.
Telemedicine is an easy way to provide real value to members
“Testimonials from members who use the telemedicine service commonly refer to the ease of use and how quick and effective it is.”
Jacquemin of Foyer Global Health told ITIJ: “Feedback from our clients is clear, they want around-the-clock availability together with quick and transparent answers. We are dedicating as much resources as necessary to make it happen – thanks to digitalisation – and we are committed to deliver major innovation milestones in 2022.
“What is key for Foyer Global Health is the ability of linking high value-added services and insurance as one, simple, experience to all our clients. Being a mid-sized international private medical insurance player requires us to be more agile and to deliver truly tangible results to our clients."
Relocating an employee can be a challenging job for companies with little experience, so it is important to work with trusted partners who have extensive knowledge in global mobility.
Employees need to be prepared so they can feel at home and be up and running immediately at their new location. Fortunately, there are a number of customisable relocation services and specialised insurers to ensure a smooth transition.