Business Travel Insurance Vs International Health Insurance post Covid-19   

20 July 2021

However, the global pandemic in 2020 accelerated remote working faster than anyone in business anticipated. In a matter of weeks companies around the world had to enable anyone who could to work from home.

Businesses with expats on assignment faced additional challenges. Expat life changed suddenly. Many expats and their families faced stay at home orders and lost many of the benefits of working overseas. Short holidays to nearby countries and trips home to visit family were curtailed as international travel ground to a halt. Those overseas alone did not have the social outlet of work or activities they may have been involved in outside of work to fall back on. Expat depression because of isolation and anxiety became even more of a risk.

For employers this was not the beginning of challenges when it comes to managing expats on assignment.   

Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic employees traveling overseas faced a number of challenges that HR teams and management in their home country had to mitigate to avoid the significant cost of expat failure


Preparation for overseas travel

Ideally employees should have some pre-departure training to make them aware of the culture and society they are moving to and your expectations around their assignment goals. This kind of training is often provided by enterprise businesses. Smaller businesses can find it more difficult to resource or formalise it, increasing the chances of culture shock


Culture shock

Often used flippantly, culture shock is a recognised psychological difficulty suffered by people who find themselves in an unfamiliar place without an understanding of the culture or societal norms. Psychologists have identified several stages of culture shock starting with the honeymoon period and ending with acceptance of a new situation. However, if the symptoms were too severe, the concern for employers is the assignment may fail.


Support while on assignment

Even the most prepared employee is likely to have unforeseen difficulties during their time abroad. Whether personal or professional they are likely to require some kind of support during their time overseas. Many employers provide this in the form of confidential access to an expat assistance programme or practical support from human resources departments at home. 



Research conducted by HSBC prior to the pandemic indicated that a third of expat employees worried about access to and quality of healthcare while they are on assignment. This figure is likely to have increased since then. As an employer you may have provided your expat employees with access to healthcare through a group international health insurance plan. But are there other options as we face into the challenges of expat assignments in a post Covid world?

As the emergence of effective vaccines means the world is cycling out of pandemic restrictions albeit at differing rates, what the ‘new normal’ will look like for expatriate assignments remains unclear. 


Expert consultancies like Deloitte are indicating the pandemic is likely to have a long lasting impact on the future of work, including mobility. They foresee all businesses reviewing their global workforce including those on assignment. What it means for expat assignments willvary by industry and company depending on their operating locations and nature of their work. As your business is working out what this could look like, we want you to know there are other options available.

Business travel insurance provides emergency medical cover for business travellers when they are outside of their country of residence and employment for up to 180 days a year. It is a great option if your employees need to travel on a short-term basis to another country and you want to cover any potential emergency medical needs. Or, if, like many employers, you are allowing new team members to work remotely while international travel is still restricted and you require short term cover for them should the unexpected happen. 

There are a few differences between international health insurance and business travel insurance that you need to be aware of:

  1. Business travel insurance is short term up to 180 days of international travel per year
  2. Business travel insurance only covers medical emergencies and not ongoing conditions
  3. Discover even more information about what Business Travel Insurance offers in our benefit guide.

International health insurance is a product for those who are on expat assignment for a prolonged period of time. It offers access to:

  1. Healthcare abroad over a long period
  2. Inpatient and outpatient cover for a much wider range of illnesses
  3. Group international health insurance plans can be tailored to the needs of your business.

No matter how your business is planning to navigate the future of work for your mobile employees, know that we are here to offer support where we can. If you have any questions or queries around international health insurance cover for your business, please get in touch.