Global benefits predictions for 2015 from Jelf International

According to Doug Rice, managing director of international services, in 2015, managing their international duty of care will become an increasing focus for UK-based overseas organisations in both managing their short- and longer-term challenges. As a result, strong independent advice and innovative technological solutions will become more important than ever in managing their global benefits.

He said: ‘The tragic fight against Ebola in West Africa not only highlights the need for suitable international healthcare cover for those operating there at the moment but it is a very real wake-up call for any UK employer operating in a less developed area. Ensuring staff have adequate protection as well as access to other benefits is something that can only be implemented on a global scale if the correct technology is in place. 2015 is going to be a mixed bag for the international benefits community — on the one hand responding to the day-to-day challenges experienced in countries such as Sierra Leone and on the other managing the strategic delivery of their international benefits, where strong independent advice and the adoption of digital communications and technology will have an increasingly fundamental part to play.’

Jelf International predictions in 2015:

1. The battle against Ebola
The relentless fight against Ebola has had a dramatic impact on the fragile economies of Western Africa and this is destined to continue long beyond the hopeful day when an effective cure is found. The over-reliance on mineral wealth and extraction in the area has been affected by the disease, with many foreign operators pausing their exploration and viability studies, and many finding it difficult to recruit expatriate specialists who are willing to travel to Ebola-hit nations.

The re-development of these economies is a global responsibility and we are expecting civil engineers, logistics and support services as well as healthcare workers and academics to be brought in on assignments, tasked with rebuilding the nations and their economies. Pre-assignment screening, education and appropriate medical services (including emergency evacuation and medical and life insurance) will be key factors in any organisation’s duty-of-care package to its travelling employees or those stationed abroad.

2. Global benefits communication
Employee engagement is a key issue in driving benefits strategies, and we expect to see employers exerting greater governance on their existing benefits strategies as well as having a more stakeholder-focused process around compensation and benefits, globally.

Global employers are looking at benefits harmonisation and at benefits management platforms that are as globally scalable for 100 employees as they are for 100,000.

While full ‘flexible benefits’ are some way off global proliferation, we expect to see more employers implementing international Total Reward Statements and also pushing for better management information to move the international benefits debate on to outcomes rather than spend.

3. Legislative change in Dubai
Last year saw the first implementation of the Dubai Health Authority Legislation affect the largest employers (those with 1,000 employees) but from now through to June 2016, the full impact of the Law (No. 11 of 2013) will affect even the smallest employers with fewer than 100 employees in Dubai. The law creates an employer responsibility and brings ‘essential benefits’ as mandatory items within a PMI policy, along with mandating the abolishment of any self-insured policies. With fines for non-compliance expected shortly, we predict a sharp rise in the number of organisations operating here taking their responsibilities more seriously — the obligation lays firmly with the employer and not the insurer.

4. Expatriate talent flocking to OPEC countries
As the price per barrel of crude oil continues to drop, the OPEC (Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries) countries such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Venezuela are likely to seek alternative revenue-generative industries to plug the gap.

Perhaps, following in the footsteps of the UAE and Qatar, creating free zones and areas of economic activity (Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Media City and International Academic City, etc) will be a way to diversify economies from over-reliance on natural resources. These types of high-tech industries require qualified experts and so we expect an influx of expatriate talent to flock to these areas from the likes of London, Tokyo, Silicone Valley and Munich. Such a pull is likely to kick-start the global battle for talent once again, so forward-thinking employers within these target sectors are likely to be reviewing their compensation and benefits strategy, and indeed their own international expansion opportunities.