Expat healthcare increasingly challenging

Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to develop healthcare packages for international workers, according to a survey by AXA Global Healthcare.

The World of Work research compares trends from 2017 and 2020, highlighting changes in the process of establishing and supporting international assignments.

The survey found that of the 543 HR decision-makers surveyed, half (52%) said developing benefit packages that are consistent across different employee types and geographies was one of the biggest challenges they face. This compares to 47% in 2017.

Another difficulty cited by respondents was meeting demands for a wide range of healthcare and wellbeing services, up from 51% up from 34% in 2017.

On the upside, the HR decision-makers surveyed indicated that, compared to other benefits, managing the cost of providing a comprehensive package was considerably less challenging than in previous years, falling from 52% in 2017 to 39% in 2020.

According to the report, this is a positive development when considering that, before the impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), the average cost of placing an assignment had increased from $50,000 (£37,000) in 2017 to $69,000 (£50,000) in 2020.

Andy Edwards, global head of international healthcare at AXA Global Healthcare, said: “We were particularly pleased to see a change in the challenges in developing healthcare packages. Emphasis is now less on managing cost and more on developing a package that meets a wider range of employee demand.

“This can only be of benefit for employees, as they look for more support from their employer. The concept of offering more specific benefits for individuals with different needs, while challenging for the manager to deliver, will support the specific needs of the employee wherever they are in the world.”

The research also revealed that the number of businesses prioritising sending employees abroad to meet lifestyle ambitions increased from a quarter (23%) in 2017 to more than a third (37%) in 2020.

Edwards said the research showed the pandemic had triggered an evolutionary shift that could see shorter-term assignments and greater focus on choosing the right person to send.

“We might even see this evolution unfold differently in individual sectors, depending on their ability to deploy skills and resources when needed,” he added.