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Employees expatriated in war zones and regions in crisis: What companies should know

23 January 2023

In the face of the recent events in Ukraine, BDAE wants to help companies and institutions with staff posted in regions going through political unrest address the dangers faced by their employees and review their security concepts accordingly.

For the past few years, growing political unrest and geopolitical risks have been the main threats to employees sent on a global mission.

And even if, for a time, the Corona pandemic and its consequences became the main concern for expatriates, the Ukraine crisis reminded us of the seriousness of those threats.

It became once again evident that companies and institutions with staff posted in regions going through political unrest should actively address the dangers faced by their employees and review their security concepts.

The BDAE Group, a German company specialising in staff assignments abroad and international health insurance for more than 25 years, would also like to point out that this also means having to review their expatriate health insurance coverage.

Increased duty of care for expatriates in crisis regions

Since the beginning of 2022, the BDAE Group's business advisory service has been receiving more and more questions about the appropriateness of sending employees to Ukraine and/or Russia. "Since 2014, Ukraine has been considered a crisis area. Therefore, companies planning assignments there have an increased duty of care towards the employees they send in this region," explains Omer Dotou, director of BDAE's business advisory service.

According to Section 618 of the German Civil Code, employers are obliged to "regulate the services to be performed under their order or direction in such a way that the obliged person is protected against any danger of death or injury...". This is also accompanied by an obligation to provide information. This means that when working in critical areas, the employer must inform his posted workers as well as possible in advance and warn them of the dangers. This duty to inform applies both before the posting and on an ongoing and regular basis during the stay abroad.

Appropriate communication is essential for employees posted in regions where they could potentially be in danger

In the case of the Ukraine conflict, this duty to inform became particularly important as the situation escalated and the risks increased. The information companies must give has to be complete, so that staff does not have to do any research themselves. It must be made available before employees leave, be appropriate, up to date and reflect the security guidelines of the Foreign Office. "By 11 and 12 February at the latest - when both the German federal government and the US government called on their citizens to leave Ukraine - companies should also have had their expatriates out of the country," Dotou continues.

Companies with staff in crisis regions should also have drawn up a contingency plan in advance. This plan would have had to indicate how and under what circumstances expatriates can be repatriated quickly. To be able to implement this concept and the corresponding contingency plans in the event of an emergency, specialists should be called in to help. Especially if employers do not have the resources to manage the crisis and its consequences for their employees on their own.

Medical assistance in the event of war is only possible to a limited extent

Medical assistance benefits are an important part of many health insurance policies abroad. They ensure, among other things, that sick or injured persons are transported home or to a hospital for appropriate medical treatment. In the event of massive civil unrest, civil war, or war, the transport of patients can only be carried out under difficult conditions. This was already demonstrated during the coronavirus pandemic when assistance providers were only able to organise flights with the help of embassies and government officials due to the closure of borders. In the case of an expatriate who fell ill in Ukraine, however, such a service cannot be provided in practice because of the flight ban and the state of war. The situation is currently similar for foreign staff in Russia.

The war between Ukraine and Russia made one thing sure: companies that send employees abroad - wherever they may be - should in principle take geopolitical risks into account for every assignment abroad and, at the first sign of trouble, consider both the insurance cover for their expatriates and their contingency plans.

For more information on BDAE's insurance and benefits for companies sending expatriates abroad here.

About the BDAE Group

Since 1995, the BDAE Group has focused exclusively on bringing expats, digital nomads and frequent travellers abroad with security. And this is reflected in the broad product range. The insurance policies offered are tailor-made packages that are the result of more than 25 years of special expertise in long-term health insurance abroad. Its own management consultancy - BDAE Consult - supports companies' HR managers with legal questions on the subject of international employee assignments.

Since 2017, the group has been part of the MSH International group, which supports more than 500,000 expats worldwide with its health insurance offerings.

This year, BDAE won the jury prize of the Assekuranz Awards for its special concept around international insurance. In 2021, the company received the seal for excellent service from the F.A.Z. Institute. In 2019 and 2020, BDAE was also named the best specialist insurer in Germany by the institute.