The time may come when you have to send one or more of your employees to a different country to carry out a specific assignment within that country. While videoconferencing and conference calls can take care of a great many details involved in international business, some items may have to be dealt with on a person-to-person basis.
If your company has been operational for more than a few years, you’re familiar with provisions concerning workers’ compensation issues within your state—but your employees may become ill or suffer serious injuries while on company business overseas. Now, you and your employees don’t have to worry about being able to pay for medical bills and a costly return trip home, especially if that trip is via air ambulance.
As with any other insurance coverage, exclusions apply with foreign voluntary workers’ compensation. FVWC protects you and your business. Should one of your employees working overseas for the short term be injured, they get treatment and your workers’ compensation policy covers the costs. In addition, by using the workers’ compensation insurance, your employee effectively agrees not to sue you for their injury or illness.
As with other types of insurance, some circumstances mean an illness or injury won’t be covered. For instance, if your employee comes down with malaria, that may not be covered. Check on this with your insurance provider.
“Extraterritorial travel” just means traveling outside your state and the U.S. Once you know that you’re going to be sending one or more of your employees out of the country temporarily, you’ll be able to cover them with your existing workers’ compensation policy.
Depending on the laws of your state, your employee will be provided coverage from 30 to 90 days. As long as they were injured while working or becoming ill with an illness that is covered in your state, their bills will be covered.
Should you get FVWC coverage? Do so only if you know you’re going to be sending someone out of the country short-term. If they will be working in that country for an extended time frame, they may qualify for FVWC coverage under “expat,” “U.S. nationals” or another type of description. As long as you hired your employee in the United States, they will be protected while working overseas. More importantly, that coverage will follow the regulations within your state—if your company is based in Arizona, then your employee’s FVWC benefits follow the applicable law in Arizona.
A third category—third country nationals—also receive coverage. If you hire a Spanish national in Spain, to work in Germany, then their coverage will be affected by Spanish law.
Local nationals are employees who were hired in their home country and assigned to work there. For instance, if an Italian national was hired to work in Italy, then FVWC won’t provide coverage. That local national will have to be covered under a policy purchased in Italy. But these employees may be able to be covered under your liability insurance.
Covered vs. Non-Covered Injuries
Traveling overseas, your employee may face challenges that his body is literally unprepared to defend against. They may come down with travel-induced diarrhea, malaria or another illness. If your employee develops food poisoning or even that travel-induced diarrhea, they will be covered. Because your state’s workers’ compensation policy covers these conditions, then your employee’s illness will also be covered under FVWC.
As far as injuries, those have to be work-related. Your employee has to be engaged in a work-related activity when they are hurt. This is the only way that FVWC will cover their costs. Let’s say they are in a taxi on the way to a meeting with a potential client. The taxi is involved in a vehicle accident and your employee suffers several injuries. Those will be covered under FVWC. It may be a good idea to buy a business travel accident policy that will provide additional coverage for your business and employee. The good news: This policy may provide coverage even if your employee gets hurt on their own personal time while overseas.
However, if your employee is on their own time and decides to take a short tour off-duty, and they are injured while touring the area they are in FVWC won’t take effect. Because they weren’t involved in a work-related activity, FVWC won’t cover their medical expenses, even though they are overseas on the company’s dime.
Some illnesses are covered under statutory workers’ compensation. Others aren’t. The key is that the illness must be one that is covered under workers’ compensation in your state. Other endemic diseases may be covered. Check the law in your state. FVWC allows your employee to file claims for endemic conditions—an advantage not available under the state-only plan.
Your employee’s compensation under FVWC won’t affect your domestic employees’ experience modification.
If your employee’s time overseas has, for some reason, exceeded the legal time restrictions on your FVWC policy, this means her medical expenses won’t be covered. Time frames for each state vary. Some are as little as 30 days; others, 90 days. If your employee was covered for 90 days and fell ill or was injured on Day 100, those claims won’t be covered because the time restrictions were exceeded.
Depending on your state, evacuation expenses may not be covered under your state’s workers’ compensation policies. However, they may be covered under your FVWC policy. Keep in mind that the expenses of repatriating your employee can be pretty expensive. If your employee must be evacuated by an air ambulance, the costs just for transport can be roughly $60,000. But, depending on where your employee was working, these costs can rise sharply.
Finally, if you hired your employee outside the borders of the U.S., they will not be covered on your FVWC policy. Your state’s workers’ compensation policy will only provide coverage to employees who were hired within the U.S.
If your employee experiences a health issue, they should be able to contact your state’s medical assistance provider to get to medical care. If the medical establishment is one that requires up-front payments before treatments are given, then your medical assistance provider may also be able to handle this as well.
Foreign Voluntary Workers’ compensation Policy
FVWC policies are closer to basic than they are comprehensive. As with a regular workers’ compensation policy, FVWC covers a portion of your employee’s wages and medical benefits.
Bringing your employee back home (repatriation) is also covered.
You want to keep all of your employees. If your business has grown to the point that you have to send one or more of your employees out of the country, you and they justifiably worry about the risks inherent in some countries. It can be dangerous to travel within some countries. And, if your employees feel they would have to refuse to travel to any of these countries, they may actually feel that it’s better to begin looking for another job.
You don’t want this. However, you need your employees and you also need the connections you’re forming in those countries. If any of your workers have verbalized their reluctance to travel to certain dangerous areas, ask your workers’ compensation insurance provider about FVWC and what it can offer to you and your employees.
Your FVWC policy should also provide 24-hour coverage. Your employee needs to know that, if they are injured at 4 p.m. in Europe, they will be covered, no matter what. So, ask your agent if the policies you are considering if they provide 24-hour protection. Another plus: This coverage may apply to third-country nationals (TCNs) as well as U.S. hires.
A good policy should also contain employer’s liability. This excludes injuries sustained outside the U.S. or Canada. One exception does benefit citizens of the U.S. or Canada who are temporarily located outside both countries and are injured in another country. One caveat: “Temporarily” is not defined, so it’s not clear how long the period of coverage is. Ask your provider.
Employers liability protects you and your business against any lawsuits filed by covered employees who were injured at work overseas. These lawsuits ca be filed in the U.S. or in another country. By accepting the assistance offered through your workers’ compensation and FVWC policies, your employee gives up the right to sue you.
Coverage Provided by FVWC Policies
FVWC insurance actually offers you and your employees extra benefits not provided under a state policy. Because your employee is temporarily living and working oversea, they need these additional protections.
Repatriation expenses allow your employee to come back to the U.S. without incurring an expense that may be too much for them to cover themselves.
Endemic disease coverage
This means diseases that are common to specific areas of the world. Under a regular workers’ compensation plan, there is no coverage. FVWC covers endemic illnesses your employee contracts, simply because of their presence in one of those areas. Before your employee travels outside the U.S., check on the endemic conditions that FVWC does cover. Others may be covered, and you want to be sure that, if your employee develops one of them, their expenses will be covered.
FVWC also provides 24-hour coverage. To qualify for this, your employee’s overseas assignment should be short-term. It also covers personal trips your employees take while they are overseas on a business trip. FVWC has valuable coverage that your employee can use if they are hurt. Because regular workers’ compensation has no provisions for co-payments, employee deductibles or policy limits, FVWC’s medical coverage takes care of all of this.