At the time of writing, more than 1,000,000 people have fled their homes to escape the war in Ukraine; and based on UN statistics, this is likely to increase while the situation intensifies and fighting continues across the country. The current situation in Ukraine and Russia is fluid; therefore, it is important that employers develop an agile plan, recognizing that it may need to change, based on specific locations and risk levels. In this blog, Sequoia, in combination with our local partners and global vendors, provides practical guidance and considerations that may be helpful to employers.
With hundreds of thousands of people currently displaced, many are travelling to neighboring countries to seek refuge and more than half of those displaced have travelled to Poland, Hungary and Moldova.
- Employers with local entities and in neighboring countries: Consider the feasibility of transferring displaced employees onto local plans. We understand that employers with existing health and benefit arrangements in neighboring countries have been able to extend coverage quickly to address these urgent welfare needs.
- The role of Expatriate health and benefit plans can be useful in these instances; existing expatriate medical plans provide cross-border access to insured medical care, covering expenses worldwide. Setting up a new expatriate medical plan can be considered, but minimum terms and conditions need to be met i.e., 180 days.
The unprecedented speed of global sanctions on Russian financial services and banks has implications for global employers who need to provide ongoing health and benefit coverage for employees located there. Paying insurance premiums, continuing coverage, and contracting with local vendors may be problematic for many global businesses.
- Use of global insurance carriers: in some instances; global insurers continue to have local entities in Russia which may, in the short term, facilitate ongoing premium payments and extend coverage when payments are made via sister companies in non-sanctioned locations (i.e., other European countries).
- Russian Employment Entities could face sanctions by Western governments; depending on the severity of these, some insurers may cease cover for schemes belonging to a Russian-owned employer, additionally it is possible restrictions could also apply to Russian nationals included in an employer’s policy.
Exclusions, Travel Advice and Employee Assistance
Global policies including Expatriate Medical/Life, Business Travel Accident, and Travel Medical typically have specific war and terrorism exclusions; however, insurer definitions vary, and clauses such as “active participation” or “innocent bystander” may provide a degree of protection for those directly impacted. In our experience, most international insurers are assessing the situation as it develops and building guidance and contingencies.
Paying claims in Russia and Ukraine vary and will likely change as the situation evolves. Most common practice follows the US State Department/The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice, which is advising against all travel to Ukraine and Russia, and that US and British Nationals should leave at the earliest opportunity.
The current situation is likely to have aftershocks, impacting employees in the region, and those with family links or relatives there. Best practice at the current time is for employers to proactively direct employees to their global/local Employee Assistance Programs, which often have a library of material on coping with political unrest, war and terrorism in addition to bereavement counselling and practical, localized support for those affected.
MAI-CEE, the Sequoia Network Member in Russia and Ukraine, has provided insights and is continuing to support clients and employees.
If Sequoia can be of assistance, or if you have any questions, please reach out to your Sequoia Global Advisor or Jill Neilson.
- UK.gov Foreign Travel Advice: Ukraine
- Travel.State.gov Travel Advisories: Ukraine
- Global EAP Provider Resources
Rochelle Spencer, MBA – As the UK Director of Global Consulting for Sequoia, Rochelle has assisted multinational companies with the management of their global benefit strategy and execution for over ten years. Rochelle has worked with employers of all sizes and sectors, holding deep expertise across global benefits governance, expatriate benefits, merger and acquisition support, global benefits brokerage coordination, and wellbeing.
Lauri Sklar – Lauri is a Global Advisor for Sequoia, where she works with clients to implement and manage benefits outside the US. Lauri also has expertise in coverage for globally mobile employees, including business travelers and expatriates.