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Survey Report

2021 Internationally Mobile Employee Benefits Design Survey

2021 Survey Report

September 30, 2021

Explore the key findings of our 2021 IME Benefits Design Survey to help support decisions related to the design and structure of your global health and risk benefits for a globally mobile workforce.

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About the Survey

Recognizing the unique nature of IME benefits and the challenges employers have in maintaining competitive and compliant plans, we conduct a biennial IME Benefits Design Survey, drawing responses from organizations around the world.

In 2021, 107 global organizations across 33 industries in 15 countries participated. Our IME Benefits Design Survey is focused on core health and risk benefits for IMEs — as well as new trends and strategies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internationally mobile employees (IMEs) — both international assignees (expatriates) and international business travelers — are valued resources for multinational organizations. IMEs often play a critical role in supporting global business strategies, including expansion into new markets as the economies of different geographies become more interdependent. When employees travel outside of their home country to support the business needs of their employer — whether on a short business trip or a long-term international assignment — unique factors and risks must be addressed as a matter of duty of care.

This became paramount in 2020 based on the immediate impacts on global mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to be a theme throughout 2021 as multinationals have reviewed practices and policies related to their IMEs.

This report highlights the results of our 2021 IME Benefits Design Survey and is intended to provide meaningful insights to help organizations improve the core benefit strategies employed for international assignees and business travelers.

As noted in our previous IME survey reports, a significant majority of multinational employers provide tailored employee benefits and related services to IMEs as a key element of a competitive benefit package. International business travelers expect supplemental benefits, including accidental death coverage, out-of-country medical care, travel and security assistance. A competitive benefit package for international assignees will include a comprehensive set of global benefit programs — healthcare, risk and retirement — to ensure their wellbeing, safety and financial security. This report covers healthcare and risk protections. International pension benefits for assignees, which 16% of the respondents offer, are reported separately in our International Pension Plan Survey.

While some employers still rely on home and/or host country plans, offering truly global programs has numerous advantages that have become more apparent during the pandemic, particularly in providing consistency and access to virtual global resources. Investing in the right combination of global health and risk benefits helps to attract and retain talent by providing robust coverage and services to support the health and wellbeing of employees and their family members. A properly tailored set of benefits for international assignees will provide the necessary structure for effective pre-trip/assignment healthcare planning; management of chronic illnesses; access and direction to high-quality medical care service facilities; and various services, such as global telehealth, employee assistance programs (EAPs), travel assistance and emergency evacuation.

The evolving legislative landscape, increasing security risks and the perpetual rise of healthcare costs worldwide have all significantly affected the design and costs of global plans, making it more challenging — but not impossible — to manage compliance factors and stay within a reasonable budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has added additional layers of complexity to the pricing of these global programs, which are important to understand when budgeting for 2022 and 2023.

Key findings

31% of respondents expect an increase in international assignments in the upcoming year
1 in 5 respondents allow some flexibility for employees to “work from anywhere
#1 consideration in selecting an IHP vendor is ability to offer compliant coverage in all host/home countries
47% recognized a gap in wellbeing services, specifically telehealth and EAPs
In a continuing upward trend, a vast majority bundle medical, dental and vision benefits within an IHP
A majority offer business travel medical and accident benefits, with a quarter managing two distinct travel programs
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