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5 Tips to Keep Staff Safe Abroad

6 May 2022

5 Tips to Keep Staff Safe Abroad

As we get back to business abroad, HR professionals need to think about how well they are protecting staff who travel - particularly if they are headed to potentially unstable, undeveloped or remote areas. 

Perhaps you are stepping-up operations abroad or looking at sending people out to international projects once again? Here are five areas you need to think about BEFORE they go:

1. Pre-deployment medical

You need to check any health concerns before your staff find themselves miles from a hospital, or reliant on sub-standard medical care.

Staff may be reluctant to submit to what they see as unnecessary medical intrusion, but it’s essential for you and them. Particularly if they are going to work in a different environment that may be very hot and humid. Or particularly stressful. Or a remote area with poor medical facilities.

This pre-deployment process can be organised through an outsourced teleconsultation process. This allows it all to be arranged around your staff members’ busy lives and means that HR doesn’t need to be caught up in time-consuming procedures.

2. Security briefing

It’s imperative you brief your people or contractors on potential risks posed by geographic, political or cultural norms. That will properly protect them – and ensure you meet your duty of care requirements.

We support clients with insurance protection on every continent. Some simply work in big global cities like Dubai or Nairobi. Others are posted to remote places like Kazakhstan or are working on oil rigs off the west coast of Africa.

What they all have in common, is that they have to deal with new challenges. That might be different cultures. They may be in a country with a fluid political situation. Or they may be involved in sensitive work or located in a place that could make them a target for kidnap, ransom or extortion.

We work with experts who will brief staff before they leave so they won’t accidentally offend or inadvertently make themselves a target. We’ll make sure they understand how to avoid dangerous situations and that they know exactly what to do, should trouble arise.

By providing this kind of briefing and ongoing support once posted, you as an organisation can be seen to be demonstrating the proper level of care for your people.

3. Employee Assistance and local support

What will their needs be, once in post? Is it just them or family members too? How will you support them miles from home?

Different individuals have a different focus on what’s important to them. For our clients we recommend that staff posted abroad have access to a professional Employee Assistance Program that offers a wide range of support.

From cross-cultural transition to work-life balance, or coping with being away from family, there’s 24/7 support available, online or in-person.

Of course, people with more permanent postings may require support with accommodation, schools etc. That might be most effectively achieved using local ‘expat services' on the ground where your people are being deployed.

4. Comprehensive insurance

Have you got the right insurance for the country your people are travelling to? Is it just Medical cover, or do they need Kidnap and Ransom, Personal Accident, Political or Medical Evacuation?

It’s essential you offer the right cover for the territory and the personnel involved. For example, if you have people on the ground during a coup, evacuation can be seriously complex (and expensive) without the right insurance. Similarly, should you face the nightmare of a kidnap situation, being able to access cover that pays for skilled negotiators and local support can be critical to the outcome.

It’s also prudent not to over-specify cover that won’t be needed.

For example, some HR departments take an annual global policy for executives with worldwide cover. But if your people don’t spend much of the year in the States, there are significant savings to be made from excluding the USA. Similarly, taking a 52-week policy for project workers who are in and out of high-risk areas is a waste of valuable resources. We can organise a call-off schedule for when they are in-territory, saving significant premiums over the year.

5. What to do if there’s a claim

If something goes wrong, employees often assume they can just wave an insurance card and it all gets taken care of. In less mainstream locations, that’s rarely the case.

There’s nothing worse than an employee suffering a road accident and then having to fight with hospital administrators about payment before treatment occurs.

This is all about employee education – again something we take on for our clients. You need to ensure that employees and their partners or dependants are aware of the procedures, wherever they may be. They need to know which are the best local hospitals if they have a choice. And they need to know who they can call, any time, day or night, to get assistance, should they need it.

For many of our clients, we direct all of this through convenient apps, ensuring that the basics are right with them in their phone, whenever they need it.

Peter Bellwood, Managing Director at Bellwood Prestbury, has over 20 years' experience in helping clients to protect their people all around the world. 

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