The current situation in Ukraine has highlighted how quickly things can escalate and the vital need for employers with overseas staff to have an emergency plan in place in case of political or civil unrest.
That’s according to Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection said: “Employers need to be aware of the differences between security and medical evacuation plans. They must have both in place to ensure all bases are covered and they must be aware of the level of the support offered.”
International medical insurance is specifically for the sick or injured. Security evacuation is different. While a political incident could result in grave physical harm or death, it is not actually a medical emergency and is unlikely to be covered by a medical emergency plan. Any region or country in which employees are working can be at risk. Terror attacks, for example, happen all around the world and often with no prior indication. With support ranging from ‘point of incident evacuation’ and ‘political or natural disaster evacuation’, to ‘security evacuation’, it is vital to take specialist advice on exactly how to offer emergency support for employees abroad.
Evacuation and repatriation
Employers and their employees abroad should be aware that evacuation is different from repatriation. With regards to medical evacuation, for example, this means that if there are no appropriate medical facilities in the employee’s current location, they will be evacuated to the nearest centre of medical excellence to undergo care. Repatriation, however, means that the employee will be transported back to their home nation for treatment. Under security evacuation, an employee may find they are taken to the nearest safe location, rather than to their home country, unless repatriation is a specific part of the support offered.
International medical insurance
International medical insurance is also crucial for any employee abroad. It must be fit for purpose, and this will be different on a case-by-case basis. If an employee falls seriously ill abroad, it is imperative that they are fully covered for all eventualities. Travel insurance is for short holidays and is not to the level required by someone working overseas.
Local knowledge can form an important part of the decision-making process when sending employees abroad. Guidance from experts in country can provide an insight into the situation into which staff are being sent. They will be able to give guidance on the risks associated with an area, and help employers to make informed decisions on what support is required.
Dennis added: “Support for employees abroad is not something that a company can take short cuts on, neither is it something that should be undertaken without advice. It is a very specialist area. Hopefully, employees and their employers will never have to rely on evacuation or repatriation services, whether for medical or security reasons. It is vital, however, that both are in place in case it is needed, and that the extent of the support is fully understood.”