When you might need international health cover

If your employees are going on a business trip abroad, are regular business travellers or will spend part of the year working overseas, they'll need some form of insurance policy. The type of insurance they'll need depends on the nature of the trip. Single-trip travel insurance may be enough if they're travelling abroad for a conference but usually work in the UK. However, if they live and work abroad for an extended period, they'll likely need to access routine healthcare.

If an employee moves abroad permanently, they may lose access to NHS care as it's a residence-based system.

Check what healthcare is available locally

Whether an employee travels for work or moves to a new country, you must consider what healthcare will be available. Each country has its own healthcare system, and you can tailor the insurance policy you choose to suit the circumstances. 

What does business travel insurance cover?

Business travel insurance provides cover for employees during a business trip. Business travel insurance policies have many of the same features as individual travel insurance policies but cover additional items to reflect that it's a business trip rather than a holiday. You can opt for a single trip, annual or long-stay policy.

Business travel insurance typically covers the following:

  • Business equipment, including laptops, office supplies, exhibition stands, and merchandise. Some policies will pay for you to hire replacement business equipment.
  • The cost of sending a colleague to replace you if you cannot continue your business trip.
  • The cancellation of business events or meetings.

You'll also have all the usual travel insurance coverage, such as:

  • Loss of personal belongings
  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Repatriation to your home country
  • Lost or stolen travel documents, cash or prepaid currency cards
  • Prepaid expenses in the event of trip cancellation or if your business trip is cut short
  • Legal fees for non-fault accidents

You can also provide additional cover for sports and leisure activities, which could cover loss of equipment or injury if you know that a business trip will include adventurous sports or activities.

What type of business travel insurance policy do you need?

As the name suggests, a single-trip business travel insurance policy covers one business trip. You can also opt for a multi-trip annual business travel insurance policy if an employee travels regularly.

These policies typically cover trips of up to 30 or 60 days. If your employee will be away for longer than that, it's worth investing in a long-stay policy that can cover trips up to 18 months. 

Group travel insurance

You can buy a group business travel insurance policy for your business travel insurance the same way you can for private health insurance. If several employees travel to an event or travel regularly, a group policy can be more cost-effective than buying single travel insurance policies for each person.

Insurers have different age limits and coverage depending on the type of coverage you need, so it's vital to check the policy wording carefully.

Business people arriving for conference

How does international health insurance work?

International health insurance has many of the same features as private health insurance in the UK. Policies offer core coverage which you can tailor with optional additional cover as needed. If your employees need medical treatment, they can contact your insurer to claim and access the necessary care.

The cover is typically provided annually, although you can pay monthly or yearly. You can also add a deductible to the policy where you pay some of the medical costs, and your insurer covers the rest. Some international health insurance policies ask you or your employee to pay the provider upfront, so you must check the policy wording carefully to ensure that the payment terms suit your needs.

What does international health insurance cover?

International health insurance varies depending on what you need the policy to cover and where your employees will travel. Policies provide access to care that may only be available in a particular country if you have insurance.

Coverage that only international health insurance provides

UK health insurance supplements NHS treatment, so it typically only covers elective care. By contrast, International health insurance covers the costs of emergency medical treatment and normal pregnancy and birth, usually excluded in UK policies. They can also pay your travel costs if you must be repatriated or visit a critically ill relative at home.

Most health insurance policies offer access to online or telephone health advice. International policies provide these services and ensure you can speak with someone who speaks your language.

What's the difference between travel insurance and international health insurance?

Business travel insurance is ideal for any employees involved in business travel, providing coverage for items unique to business trips, for example, replacing business equipment or arranging for a colleague to replace you at important events or meetings if you need to cancel.

By contrast, international health insurance only covers healthcare costs and is typically only needed if an employee is going to work in another country long term. Here are some differences between business travel insurance and international health coverage.

Business travel insurance covers items that health insurance doesn't

As the name suggests, international health insurance only covers the costs of medical treatment. Your employee must also have business travel insurance if they travel within a territory.

Business travel insurance covers the costs of replacement business equipment and funds during business trips. Your policy will also cover legal expenses and the cost of your employee's luggage or personal possessions if lost or damaged during a business trip.

International health insurance doesn't cover these, so it's worth investing in both.

Do you need international health insurance and business travel insurance?

Business travel insurance can provide some limited medical treatment. If needed, business travel insurance will pay for emergency care and repatriation to an employee's home country. However, it won't pay their routine medical expenses while they're away.

Frequent business travel can make it more difficult for employees to arrange routine medical or dental check-ups. International health insurance covers care for ongoing medical conditions, medication and regular dental check-ups or eye tests in a way that business travel insurance doesn't.

Business person working on laptop at airport whilst waiting for flight

What isn't covered

All health insurance policies have exclusions. Like UK health insurance, international health insurance typically excludes pre-existing medical conditions. Some insurers will include them, but your premium will likely be higher. There may also be age limits.

Coverage can vary depending on the country or region you want to cover, so make sure you do your research to find out what exclusions may apply.

Exclusions on business travel insurance

Business travel insurance doesn't typically exclude pre-existing conditions. However, getting coverage can be more challenging, or your premium may be significantly higher because there's a higher risk they'll claim on the policy.

Travel insurance may not pay out if the loss occurred because an employee left their belongings unattended, took illegal drugs or participated in dangerous sports not covered by the policy. Employees must also follow Government or travel company advice on safe travel and be honest about pre-existing conditions.

Is an EHIC or GHIC an alternative to international health insurance or business travel insurance?

Suppose you're travelling or working in the EU. You may wonder whether a global health insurance card (GHIC) or its predecessor, the EHIC, provides coverage that replaces your travel or international health insurance. Neither of these cards can replace adequate travel insurance. They won't replace lost personal belongings or travel documents or cover the costs of any emergency rescue or repatriation to your home country. Only insurance can cover your costs if your business trip is cut short.

Will an EHIC or GHIC cover medical treatment overseas?

A GHIC lets you access medical treatment in EU countries in an emergency or for health issues that arise while you're away, including flare-ups in chronic conditions. However, there are exceptions. It only covers state healthcare, so you'll need health insurance for private treatment. You can't use it if you've travelled to a particular country to receive treatment, such as fertility treatment or specialist dental work. The cards cover different things depending on the country you're visiting and aren't accepted in Jersey, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican or the Isle of Man.

How much does business travel insurance cost?

Your business travel insurance costs depend on several factors, including your destination and how long you'll be away. You'll pay more for a worldwide policy than one that excludes North America simply because healthcare costs are higher there. You'll also pay more if your employees have any pre-existing medical conditions.

If your employees travel with expensive business equipment, you may need to pay more to ensure sufficient coverage.

However, you can reduce the cost by applying an excess to your policy.

Get professional advice

If you need help finding the right business travel coverage, we'll provide impartial advice and help you to compare quotes to ensure you and your team have the right cover in place.

Contact us for a comparison quote.

Kingsley Agbo
Senior Broker

Kingsley Agbo

Kingsley has over a decade's experience in health, group life insurance and relevant life insurance. He's a talented broker with a passion for his work and for supporting his clients.

Frequently asked questions