Expats working for big firms abroad are demanding more from their employers in terms of health and wellbeing benefits whilst working abroad, new research has found.

In particular they want to make sure that their international private medical insurance (IPMI) is robust while also looking for more flexible working arrangements, according to the study from international health insurer Bupa Global.

Some 26% of staff expect more in terms of health and wellbeing benefits than five years ago with 90% considering their health is the responsibility of their employer.

This comes at a time when large firms expect to send more employees overseas. The research found that 32% of HR directors expect their global workforce to increase in the next five years, and 52% report a rising demand for international private medical insurance over the past five years.

Overall some 73% of employees expect to have access to health treatment in their host country and 66% who receive international private medical insurance from their employer say they wouldn’t travel abroad without it.

When asked more specifically about looking after their health when abroad, 82% of senior executives and 90% of employees say they consider it the responsibility of their employer.

‘Employees are becoming increasingly engaged with their own health and wellbeing, and are calling on their employers to take an active role in it too,’ said Sheldon Kenton, managing director of Bupa Global.

‘We know that people now want and expect to receive treatment in their host country and have access to the same standard of medical care while abroad, rather than travelling home. With more employees likely to work abroad over the next five years, employers need to work with a global healthcare provider which can offer cover to complement and enhance any domestic plans, improving the health of their workforce,’ Kenton pointed out.

Some 79% of HR directors said providing private medical insurance is an important differentiator from competitors. Employers’ main reasons for providing health cover to staff were recruitment and retention, followed by actively wanting to look after their employees’ health and wellbeing.

When it comes to the kind of cover expats want, some 73% want healthcare cover in the country where they work, 42% want access to top medical facilities, 43% want cover for chronic or hereditary conditions, 34% want mental health cover and 25% want domestic care cover.

The research also shows that it is even more crucial that adequate health cover is in place as people progress in their career, with mental health becoming an increasing workplace concern as people climb the career ladder.

When asked what health and wellbeing issues employees are likely to face as they become more senior within an organisation, some 39% of HR directors said stress is the biggest concern, 36% said depression and 33% said anxiety.