Benefits Lacking for Globally Mobile Workforce

December 14, 2005 ( - A new survey has found that, while short-term international assignments for employees are increasing, one-fourth of employers do not have a benefits policy in place for their global workforce.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s Expatriate and Third-Country Nationals Benefits Survey found that 60% of companies are increasing their use of short-term international assignments and almost all company respondents agreed that addressing benefits issues for globally mobile employees is a medium or top priority.

However, 25% of companies do not have a benefits policy in place for these employees, 30% have no formal governance procedures, and 11% report having never reviewed their policies, according to a Mercer press release. Almost 10% of globally mobile employees have expressed dissatisfaction with their benefit package while on assignment.

The survey found that the defined benefit (DB) pension provision for globally mobile employees will continue to decline. Two-thirds of companies surveyed with international pension plans now use defined contribution (DC) arrangements and one in ten organizations offering a DB plan aims to close it in favor of a DC plan in the near future.

European organizations are more likely to offer a DC plan for their employees (71%) than North America-based companies (50%). Further, average pension contributions made by Europe-based companies is 8%, compared to just 6% from North American organizations.

As far as other benefit trends,North American companies typically provide a lower level of benefits than European organizations, though employees of US multinationals can access additional benefits if they pay for them. While the majority of European multinationals provide international medical plans with no restrictions on the choice of provider and family coverage, employees of North American companies are expected to contribute towards the cost of treatment. The most common level of death benefit among participants in North American organizations is two-and-a-half times salary, compared with three times salary in European and other multinationals.

The long-term disability benefit provided by most multinationals is 70% of salary. Almost all companies surveyed provide emergency assistance, accidental death and dismemberment, and business travel accident coverage.

The survey covered 232 multinational companies.