Employers encounter an array of issues as employees return to offices and the world looks towards the future with an eye on COVID-19 and its ever-changing variants. Global benefits strategy and preparedness issues for American companies with locations outside the U.S. most likely keep their benefits managers and human resources teams up at night. On top of return-to-office challenges around the world, global travel is starting to increase – but with that comes many concerns.

Viewpoints from Matt Marmorek

Several of our clients have resumed business travel outside the U.S., and our number-one piece of advice remains “plan before you go.”

Many borders remain closed and others continue to change the rules and restrictions for entry. In addition to the inbound requirements to a specific country (i.e., proof of vaccination, negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, mandatory quarantines, etc.), many countries now require medical insurance that includes a specific level of COVID coverage. As numerous domestic plans do not extend coverage outside of the U.S., our global team helps determine and place coverage for supplemental policies. Furthermore, employers should be aware of “return requirements” into the U.S. Currently, those entering the U.S. from a foreign country must provide proof of a negative PCR test received no more than three days before flight departure.

I recently heard a story about an employee testing positive for COVID before their return flight home who was subsequently unable to leave the country they were visiting for their business trip.

While the employee was able to retest after 72 hours (and received a negative result) the employer had to cover the additional expense for the three extra days of the trip. This situation is merely one example of issues employers need to consider before sending employees on short-term trips overseas. The potential costs, disruptions and safety concerns should all be reviewed with key stakeholders at company headquarters before any overseas travel takes place.

Employers considering longer trips or assignments for their staff should review their domestic policies to understand the level of medical coverage while abroad and unquestionably confirm COVID coverage.

Several policies have limitations on the number of days overseas before domestic coverage lapses – this applies to U.S. domestic populations and domestic populations abroad. The same precautions and review should take place for U.S. companies considering work-related visits from foreign-based employees to the U.S.

Beyond COVID and work travel, employers continue to evaluate their general global benefits strategies in a world that looks completely different from the one just 18 months ago.

Tools (like benchmarking reviews, governance structuring, plan assessment and gap analysis) enable employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing a priority during these challenging times. The Global Benefits practice can help assess benefits programs to best position employers to recruit and retain talent while protecting their employees.

 


EPIC offers these opinions for general information only. EPIC does not intend this material to be, nor may any person receiving this information construe or rely on this material as, tax or legal advice. The matters addressed in this article and any related discussions or correspondence should be reviewed and discussed with legal counsel prior to acting or relying on these materials.

 

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Matt Marmorek

National Practice Leader, Global (Non-U.S.) Employee Benefits – Jersey City, NJ