Managing risks involved with overseas-based staff
For Human Resources staff, ensuring the safety of your workers heading abroad on overseas assignments means assessing and mitigating the potential risks involved. When it comes to managing risks, securing appropriate insurance can go a long way. Often the things that we perceive as being major threats are the last things that will go wrong; but the small stuff can really ruin an overseas experience.
Following a recent article printed in the International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, Pacific Prime delves into the considerations you should make insurance-wise when you’re sending staff overseas.
Weighing up the likelihood of travel-related issues
When it comes to assessing the possible dangers of working abroad, we have a tendency to think of more high-profile risks such as terrorism or natural disasters. While these are concerns that absolutely should be considered during an assessment, their likelihood of occurring can be extremely low. Instead, we tend to ignore some of the more low-profile concerns, such as stolen items or hygiene illnesses, which can happen at a much higher frequency.
In countries where kidnapping is more common, such as those in Latin America or South East Asia, it is wise to ensure that your company provides coverage in case the unthinkable does happen. However, it’s just as important to consider things such as purse snatching, vehicle accidents, and bouts of food poisoning; all of which are more likely to affect your staff and, eventually, disrupt your business operations, should they occur.
Preparing your staff for life overseas
Using common sense and taking personal precautions is a must when travelling. Often, business travelers can be the cause of their own risk; either by simply ignoring the conditions of the country they’re in, or by making poor decisions. Obviously drink driving is dangerous and illegal the world over, however the number of tourists and working visa holders appearing in court in places like New Zealand have reached national attention.
Socializing and mixing can be a common and frequent part of a travelling business person’s life. Managing the risks associated with those expectations might mean setting a strict company policy, or simply ensuring your own company liability insurance can cover what should hopefully be an infrequent, unlikely event.
Understand the risks in countries you do business in
The issues and risks your staff may face will vary from country to country; so it’s important to clearly understand what might occur, and where. Again, some countries are more prone to problems like kidnapping or acts of terrorism. Other destinations will be Zika-affected locations, and as such will cause special concern from those at risk while travelling there. Risk mapping can be an appropriate way to proactively mitigate any potential issues.
This can help you by managing risks per geographical location, and per the staff expected to operate in those areas. A kidnapping protection policy can be expensive, but it might be absolutely appropriate for some staff, while others might need tailored international health insurance plans to cover them for location-specific illnesses. Targeted risk profiling will mean targeted coverage for your staff overseas, and may save you money.
Be clear about your expectations of staff while abroad
Sending staff overseas is a big responsibility for companies, but can also be a huge opportunity for your staff. While travelling employees will no doubt know to put their best foot forward when representing your company internationally, you should also be very clear about your company safety guidelines, and the importance of complying with them.
Putting the effort into risk mapping, country profiling, arranging flights and accommodations, and acquiring relevant right-to-work visas can all be undone by a staff member who fails to keep themselves safe. This is why, as part of managing risks for overseas employees, you need to absolutely stress that adhering to your company safety and wellbeing policy is non-negotiable.
Prepare for what you know, be aware of what you don’t
Part of assessing business travel risk also means ensuring staff keep their wits about them. Travellers often have access to large amounts of information online and friendly advice from colleagues about what to watch out for when abroad; but what about things that people don’t know about? The reason travel blogs still exist is that countries and locations are dynamic; the people, culture, and even threats, can change a lot over a relatively short period of time.
Some of the information you read online might be out of date, or colleagues may have anecdotes from when they visited an area more than a few years ago. If your focus is only on major concerns such as a terrorist attack while in Africa or being victim to a robbery whilst on a tuk tuk in Thailand, then you might not see an unknown threat such as ATM card-scanners, or an increase in dangerous climate conditions due to changing weather patterns.
Being responsive and adaptive to things you don’t know can help you and your staff overcome any unseen challenges that may threaten to disrupt your business, and put your employees at risk.
What can I do to better protect my staff and my business?
There are a number of actions that you can take as a company to mitigate risks when you’re sending staff abroad. Some, such as strengthening internal policies, and installing protocols and systems for managing risks for overseas employees, are steps your business can take. As for matters of insurance, the best decision you can make is to work with a reputable, international insurance broker such as Pacific Prime.
We are experts in all things insurance, particularly those with international and corporate considerations. Our staff in Hong Kong have previously discussed what specific insurance requirements a company might have when sending staff overseas, while our Singapore office has an article on disaster insurance that many businesses will find useful to know.