International benefits: Five employer learnings 

woman hiking smiling
woman hiking smiling

Five employer learnings to attract and retain globally mobile employees

Explore how employers are designing, delivering, and financing insured health and risk benefit programs for a diverse, international workforce.

Global assignments have bounced back post-pandemic and remain crucial for multinational organizations, particularly those looking to expand overseas.

Our new global Mercer Marsh Benefits survey provides a unique insight into how employers are structuring their international benefits, and an opportunity to compare your organization’s benefits strategy and future plans against your peers.

We’ve reviewed the top emerging trends in the international insured benefits space, including coverage for international remote workers, inclusive benefits, cost containment measures, and more.

Here are the five key takeaways for businesses:

Attracting and retaining individuals with the required skillsets for global assignments has become increasingly difficult in today’s inflationary environment. Employers face a challenging balancing act to manage costs, compete for talent, and address evolving employee expectations and mounting people-related risks.

Employees value benefits second only to salary when considering international assignments. And, despite increasing costs, our research shows that 96% of employers are not considering reducing benefits, instead focusing on more active plan management strategies or alternative financing models, to contain spend.

Providing an attractive benefits program is a key priority for businesses that want to be employers of choice. Over a quarter of firms said that their target position for international benefits offerings was ‘above market practice’ or market leading, with the remaining 74% targeting benefits in line with the market.

Over a quarter of employees say they struggle to understand what benefits are available from their employer, making it the biggest concern for workers. A further 16% struggle to navigate local social security and expat coverages.

Both issues could be solved with better communication strategies, yet just 11% of businesses say communicating benefits to employees is a challenge. This suggests a significant blind spot amongst employers.

We'd urge multinational employers to look at optimizing their engagement and communication approach with relevant resources available both internally and via vendors. Making communication an integral part of strategy is key, with integration into yearly reviews and active management of the benefits program. 

Almost all surveyed employers are expecting to increase or maintain their number of international remote workers. Despite this, nearly a fifth say they do not have a defined benefits strategy to support these employees. Furthermore, new assignment types are causing challenges in the life and disability space with limited solutions available in the market.

of employers expect their number of international remote workers to increase or maintain in the near future


of employers do not have a defined benefit strategy to support international remote workers

Mobility strategies are evolving to deal with the rise of international remote workers and third-country nationals. International Private Medical Insurance has become a default solution for many, with 67% of survey respondents taking this route to support international remote workers. Employers should, however, take care to ensure that the often niche requirements of such workers are not underserved by benefits designed for expatriates. 

Employers must keep up with changing employee needs and ensure that their benefit programs are both relevant and aligned to their talent management strategies.

Our Health on Demand study considers the power employers have to close healthcare gaps so that all employees thrive. It is encouraging to see that employers are moving towards benefits strategies that support and foster a more diverse talent pool, with 56% citing diversity, equity and inclusion needs as a primary objective of their international medical plan.

Mobility benefits are more inclusive and proactive than ever and we see an increasing number of employers supplementing domestic cover to provide benefits in areas such as gender dysphoria, fertility and birth control cover as part of their international solutions.

Recent geo-political uncertainties, together with an increased claims trend post-COVID (particularly from cancer, mental well-being, respiratory and physiotherapy costs), have led to employers increasingly moving from passive to active plan management. Employees, often travelling with family, are also prioritizing their health needs and, given heightened global risks, are reluctant to accept overseas assignments without robust medical benefits in place.

Unsurprisingly, the predominant objective for employers when providing international medical benefits is a duty of care with 90% of respondents citing this. A further 71% of employers agreed that an objective is to prepare for natural risks. 

We encourage and support employers increasingly focused on using the tools made available by their providers to help address these challenges, whilst reviewing their benefit package to ensure they are prepared for all eventualities. 

Insured benefits for internationally mobile employees

Evaluate your organization's benefits strategy for globally mobile employees and compare future plans against your peers. 
Related solutions
Related insights