Expats should ensure that their employers are reviewing their international benefits often enough, with new research suggesting that these are not being carried out regularly enough.

According to Jelf International, a company that advises on employee benefits, some 42% have either never reviewed their benefits or have done so over a year ago. The company warns that as legislation changes constantly this is poor business practice and a review needs to be carried out every year.

EU cross border healthcare
The firm has also issues a warning that in Europe it is often assumed that the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) is sufficient to protect staff working in the European Union but this is not necessarily the case.

Most health care is state run within the EU but there is a need for top up insurance in many countries, for example France, and levels vary between other countries. Also, the Ehic is primarily designed to provide short term coverage, rather than support long term expat workers in the EU.

‘If you've been relocated overseas by a company or are employed by a UK business you should consider asking whether medical insurance will be provided, and if so to what level,’ said James Spencer, Jelf's international corporate benefits manage.

‘It is commonplace for employees working overseas to be offered a comprehensive health insurance policy, often covering their accompanying families for day to day medical care, and more costly medical needs such as childbirth and cancer care,’ he added.

Spencer explained that health insurance can give faster access to health care, with English-speaking staff and a higher doctor/patient ratio. ‘For an employer it should be a serious consideration for its expat staff, whether they are on long term assignments or commuters,’ he said.

Doug Rice, managing director for Jelf International, believes that every expat employee should have their overseas benefits, including health, checked regularly. ‘We are pleased that a number of employers do review their overseas benefits regularly, but until it’s every employer we won’t be satisfied,’ he said.

He pointed out that international benefits are very different from domestic benefits. ‘If we take the example of healthcare, in the UK if an employee doesn’t have private healthcare they can still use the NHS but often there is no free healthcare abroad. If an employee needs medical treatment overseas and they don’t have insurance there is no guarantee they’ll be treated. Furthermore the company is at risk of employees not being allowed entry to their chosen country or of hefty fines if their insurance is not adequate,’ he explained.

The research also reveals an appetite for regular country specific updates for employers with overseas staff, with 93% saying this would be useful. ‘In our experience, companies struggle to access relevant information. When employers have staff in a number of countries it’s tough for them to keep on top of all legislative changes relevant to them. And if an intermediary only dabbles in international benefits, they aren’t best placed to inform. Employers are crying out for expert, specialist knowledge,’ Rice pointed out.

‘The complexity in the international market is not going to abate, so nor is the need for expert advice. Employers need to feel confident that they’re getting advice from specialists in this field who keep them regularly updated,’ he added.