16 October 2018

Companies under-prepared for political and natural disasters overseas

Some employers may believe that a political or natural disaster is only likely to occur in traditionally high-risk regions, but this is not the case. The change in political dynamics means that volatility can happen anywhere in the world. And this year alone we’ve seen evacuations recommended in Indonesia and Florida due to severe weather conditions, as well as in Hawaii following a volcanic eruption.

Yet findings released today show that employers are potentially under-prepared. Only 31%* of companies have a specific policy in place to evacuate or repatriate their staff in the event of a political or natural disaster.

Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group said: “Of course there are the usual high-risk areas where employers know they need to be prepared to evacuate or repatriate their staff, but it’s not as easy to compartmentalise the world as it once was. Political and natural disasters can happen anywhere in the world and at any time, and it’s sensible for employers to have plans in place should they need to get their staff out of a region.

“The priority for staff abroad tends to be on what they can contribute to the business. But during emergency situations, they look to the business for help, and that help needs to be there.”

SMEs v large corporates

While planning for such events beforehand may be another task on an ever-increasing to-do list, it doesn’t compare to trying to deal with a situation in an emergency. Commercial flights can be cancelled, basic provisions can be scarce and getting information from a reputable source can be difficult. Having specialists helping that have experience in such situations can be a lifeline.

Large companies are better prepared than smaller companies, with 41% of large corporates having a policy in place to evacuate staff in case of political and natural disaster, compared to 24% of SMEs.

SMEs may have less resource to put such policies in place, but with many smaller companies seeing the opportunity for growth overseas, it’s never been more important for them to ensure their staff are looked after in such events.

Sarah Dennis commented: “It can feel like there’s an endless list of things that SMEs need to do to look after their staff abroad, but looking after their safety has to be at the top. Some employers may worry that it would be expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper to have insurance in place to evacuate staff than to try and deal with such an event during an emergency. More importantly, not many would have the know-how. When you’ve seen first-hand the support that such specialist teams provide, the value is unquestionable.”

Plan and communicate

The message is clear: be prepared. That means being able to get staff out of disaster areas if needed. The company needs to know what to do, and the staff need to know what to do. Policies and procedures need to be in place well in advance, and, most importantly, clearly communicated to staff. No one wants to be in a situation where they’re trying to deal with a disaster without a plan in place.

* The research was conducted in July 2018 for The Health Insurance Group by Opinium, it surveyed 102 HR decision makers in UK businesses, representing between 17,418 and 25,912 employees.