Expanding Internationally? Here's Your Initial Employee Benefits Checklist

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Expanding your company’s scope internationally, whether it’s just one employee traveling or an entire division relocating, can be a very complex project to manage. The checklist below can help you get a handle on some key considerations.

1. Investigate your current policies to verify how your current coverage handles care abroad
Group medical plans typically offer international coverage for emergency care only. You may find that your disability insurance has a travel assistance benefit or “add-on” that also helps to coordinate emergency medical evacuations or care abroad.

2. Consider business travel accident (BTA) and medical benefits abroad (MBA) coverage
If your organization has historically experienced low business travel needs, you can definitely expect to see a significant increase in business travel abroad as you expand your international presence. BTA policies can supplement any existing accidental death and dismemberment benefits currently in force; MBA policies ensure that both emergency and routine care is covered for employees on international assignments shorter than 6 months.

3. Determine the number of expatriates you will have and the duration of their relocation
For employees traveling more than six months, or an expatriate, a better choice may be an individual international health insurance policy. These policies are guaranteed renewable and easy to obtain, but may contain pre-existing condition limitations.

4. Identify need for Group Expatriate Health Insurance
If you have five or more expatriates, you may be eligible to purchase a group/blanket policy for them. A group policy provides consistency in plan design and renewal periods, typically do not have pre-existing condition exclusions, and tend to be more comprehensive than individual plans. 

5. Explore a Global PEO (aka GEO: Global Employment Organization)
These organizations may be attractive to companies with a handful of employees in a handful of countries. Unlike the United States (in which a PEO is a “co-employment” arrangement), global PEOs are the true employer of record with 100% employer liability. Global PEOs will provide payroll, HR, and benefits services to streamline your international processes and give you peace of mind in limiting your organization’s local compliance risks.

6. Develop a long-term international benefits philosophy
Developing a strategic philosophy doesn’t have to be a detailed or time-consuming process, however, it’s important that your organization’s key stakeholders are aligned with a broad approach. Additionally, it’s important to understand that the idea of duplicating benefits or designing an “equal” benefits package across international borders, while seemingly simple and straightforward, may be problematic.  Instead, consider adopting an international strategy based on statutory requirements or in relation to benchmark standards.

Lastly, be sure to work with a trusted advisor who will help you evaluate the best options for your specific situation.  Each organization’s needs and priorities are different, so don’t hesitate to ask questions, explore new options, and create the right framework for your international population.