Sarah Dennis, Head of International for The Health Insurance Group, says that varying rates of growth around the world mean that as employers send staff to new regions, they need to adapt to these changing trends to ensure they comply with legislation and that staff are properly supported.
The economy in East Asia and Pacific is buoyant and growth is anticipated to reach 6.3% this year. Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China are all showing big growth, with China, in particular, growing very quickly. More growth means more staff being deployed in these regions.
Regulations and legislation are being tightened in Hong Kong with the aim of providing greater certainty and confidence in order to promote growth, bringing it into closer alignment with the regulatory landscape of neighbouring China. So this may become a more popular place to send staff.
In contrast, the World Bank has reported that growth in the Middle East and North Africa is estimated to have slowed sharply to 1.8% in 2017 from 5% the previous year. This is likely to have a knock-on effect of fewer staff working here.
Employers also need to be aware of tax and regulatory changes. For instance, in Dubai, the cost of living has increased due to a combination of factors including higher rents, the introduction of VAT at 5% in January this year, and a new requirement for employers to provide all staff with health insurance, which came into force on 31 March, 2017. This has made it a less popular place for some, but employers that do send staff there need to ensure they adapt to new requirements.
What employers need to do
As companies send staff to new regions they need to be aware of relevant regulations and local requirements and ensure they comply. For instance, not having the right healthcare cover in some places will mean a visa can’t be granted which will mean an employee can’t work in that country. So it’s crucial that employers look at each country’s and region’s requirements and ensure the benefits they offer comply and are appropriate.
There are various options available in terms of how to provide such benefits. Looking after staff overseas is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on where staff are working, a global policy may be appropriate. For others, it may be more efficient to have a local policy that just covers the specific countries where employees are working. Companies need to look at the options and ramifications of each option to ensure they have the most appropriate arrangement for their specific needs, as well as the most cost-effective.
Employers that want to capitalise on economic buoyancy in fast-growing regions need to be aware that it takes more than arranging a flight and accommodation for staff: regulations change all the time and staff must have the right cover in place. In addition, there are myriad options available in how to do this and costs of doing so vary enormously, it’s important to talk to specialists that understand the requirements of different regions and how best to ensure staff are looked after – to both protect the company and its employees.
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