While the UK is slowly unlocking, employers with overseas staff must not underestimate the severity of the Covid situation in other countries and the impact this will have on health and wellbeing.

Towergate Health & Protection is warning of the concerns around the world and what employers can do to mitigate the effects of overseas employees not seeing their GPs with medical concerns, not attending screening appointments and the possible impact on life expectancy.

Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “Whether directly or indirectly, Covid will have a long-term effect on the health of employees around the world. Employers can make a real difference and, with the right support, even mitigate a reduction in life expectancy.”

Local knowledge
With the situation around Covid changing rapidly across the globe, it is important to have in-country expertise. Guidance and information on the specific health and wellbeing regulations and assistance available in each area will help ensure employers have the most appropriate support in place.

“Covid has put us all in an extraordinary situation. More than ever, as the world starts to open up, employers of global staff need to be sure that they are doing their utmost to look after employees in-situ and to provide the maximum care and support available,” comments Sarah Dennis.

It is important, therefore, to use health and wellbeing specialists with access to local experts – who have specialist in-country knowledge where employees are assigned – who understand what elements of medical cover are mandatory and advisory, which are included as standard, and what extra benefits are required. These local experts will be aware of all the options available in a specific area and how best to access them.

Intelligent use of employee benefits
The issues go wider than just treating Covid alone. Countries may be diverting care from other areas, so that Covid patients are being treated as a priority, but people with other illnesses and conditions are having operations cancelled and check-ups postponed. Many routine screening and diagnostic procedures have been delayed, the effects of which may not be fully understood for some time to come. This is one area in particular where employers of overseas staff are well placed to help by having the right benefits in place.

International cover typically includes more than regular UK private medical insurance (PMI) as standard. For example, most international private medical insurance (IPMI) policies will include diagnostics and screening for chronic conditions as standard, which would not normally be covered by PMI in the UK. Having this in place can make a real difference to conditions being diagnosed early, and result in better outcomes.

With GP access often difficult under Covid conditions, employers also need to review how they look after the general health and wellbeing of overseas staff. IPMI will often offer services like virtual GPs, so that employees can gain access to medical assessments and prescriptions quickly and easily, wherever they are in the world, without having to see someone in person.

Holistic approach
Employers should always have the health and wellbeing of overseas employees at the forefront of their minds but the Covid situation brings this into sharp focus. Although the UK is hopefully turning a corner, the world as a whole still has a long way to go, and a great deal of support will still be required for those working abroad. Employers have an opportunity to make a very real impact on mitigating the effect that Covid could have, and accessing those with specialist local knowledge will make a big difference.