In an increasingly globalized world, business travel is essential for employees in different countries to meet face to face, establish trust and collaborate toward shared goals. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s a frightening prospect: one of your top employees is on an important business trip thousands of miles from home, and something goes terribly wrong. He gets clipped by a bus on the streets of Mexico City, or she contracts a debilitating virus in New Delhi just hours before a scheduled presentation. Employees on the road can also be sidelined by less severe but more frequent problems, such as breaking a leg, getting the flu or diarrhea, getting into an accident, or falling victim to theft.

Every day, stories about the coronavirus fill the pages of newspapers around the world, making it impossible to avoid thinking about travel risk. Corporate purchasers of a multinational business travel policy understand their duty of care to employees when they travel for business. But how well do they understand exactly how the insurance coverage they purchased will respond when something goes wrong?

Related: 4 tips for moving employees abroad

Does your employee know where to turn to for assistance? If injured, do they have immediate access to the information they need, such as the best doctor or hospital to care for him in an unfamiliar city? Do all your employees, no matter where they are based, have access to the same level of care anywhere they travel? Or are there gaps that could lead to inconvenient, or even tragic, outcomes?

Beyond protecting the health and safety of your employees, does your travel insurance program adequately protect the needs of your business? Is the coverage you have fully compliant in every jurisdiction, or are their gaps that could face unwelcome scrutiny from insurance regulators and tax authorities around the world? If a traveling employee falls ill, will the company be covered for the cost of flying out another executive to complete the assignment? Do you know the extent of coverage within your organization? Is there an assumption that you are covered yet no one is sure of the details? Are there gaps in your insurance policies that are leaving your traveling employees open to increased risk?

Beyond protecting the health and safety of your employees, does your travel insurance program adequately protect the needs of your business? Is the coverage you have fully compliant in every jurisdiction, or are their gaps that could face unwelcome scrutiny from insurance regulators and tax authorities around the world? If a traveling employee falls ill, will the company be covered for the cost of flying out another executive to complete the assignment? Do you know the extent of coverage within your organization? Is there an assumption that you are covered yet no one is sure of the details?

These are the kinds of crucial questions purchasers of business travel insurance need to ask to mitigate risk. A recent survey by Travel Medicine, an information and product resource for travelers, found up to 65 percent of travelers to the developing world self-report a health problem during their trip, and about 8 percent of these travelers are sick enough to seek medical care either while traveling abroad or shortly after returning home.

Don’t just buy a policy, buy access to a network of capabilities.

Business travel policies typically include coverage for an emergency evacuation. But the ability to reach and assist an employee in distress is only as good as the resources the insurer is prepared to deploy. An employee of a major Australian utility company was on a temporary business assignment in the Philippines when Taal Volcano suddenly erupted, spewing tens of thousands of tons of ash into the sky and onto the surrounding communities. With warnings of an even more massive eruption, the employee needed to immediately evacuate from the Philippines. Fortunately, his company’s benefits administrator had the foresight to ensure he was covered by a policy that would guarantee his swift evacuation from such dangerous situations.

A policy form that provides a benefit doesn’t mean much without resources to back it up. Make sure your insurer has the resources to deliver on their promises when catastrophes occur. The health and safety of your employees could depend upon it.

Make sure your employees have the tools they need to get the help they need when they need it.

In recent years, technology has changed the game for business travel insurance. When something goes wrong, your employee on the ground could be scared or confused. They need to have tools at their fingertips to turn for help. That includes capabilities like digital apps and call centers with 24/7 support. They need information quickly in order to make the right decision, such as which hospital to be taken to if they are injured.

Technology and claims capabilities are also important for the more frequent and mundane mishaps that can happen when traveling – lost luggage, a stolen wallet or a lost cell phone. Make sure you understand what is covered under your policy, and how easy and convenient the claims process is.

Mind the gap: make sure all employees globally have consistent coverage.

Consider the following scenario: three business colleagues from different countries and different subsidiaries of the same global company attend an industry event in Mumbai, India. As they leave the event together, the car they are traveling in is struck from behind by another vehicle. Each employee is seriously injured and requires urgent medical care.

How are they treated? Depending on the existence and level of business travel insurance coverage, the colleagues may receive an entirely different quality of care, despite the fact that they all work for the same global company. Under the varying degrees of coverage, an employee may be immediately evacuated by air to a top hospital in the region, while the other two may be sent to the nearest local hospital. Each employee might also receive different insurance compensation amounts for their hospital stays and injuries.

The variety of national regulations governing the purchase of insurance have made it harder than ever to design multinational business travel and personal accident coverage that can provide consistent worldwide protection and limits while addressing each country’s tax and regulatory requirements. Be sure to work with an insurer that understands this complexity and has the resources to design an effective, consistent and fully compliant program. One issue to follow is the growing number of countries that prohibit the sale of non-admitted insurance, which refers to an insurance company that does not have a license to operate in a particular jurisdiction.

Make sure you have the coverage you want for your employees.

Not all business travel policies are created equal. You may, for example, want to make sure your insurance will cover the cost of flying out the spouse of an employee who was hospitalized for a heart attack while on the job abroad. Will your policy cover the cost of business class seats for an employee returning home and a doctor or health care aid to accompany her? Understand the coverage options available and what is best for your employees and the business.

In an increasingly globalized world, business travel is essential for employees in different countries to meet face to face, establish trust and collaborate toward shared goals. Business travel is also requiring for meeting with partners, suppliers, customers and prospects. For employees, it can be exciting, rewarding and challenging. Creating an effective, consistent and thoughtfully constructed business travel insurance problem is an important way to fulfill your duty of care and be there for your employees when they most need it.

John Thompson is division president, International Accident & Health at Chubb.

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