China / Society

Service manages risks for overseas employees

By Shan Juan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-18 06:57

International SOS, a medical and travel security risk-management service company, has launched what it says is the world's first global framework to protect workers who travel on overseas assignments.

With the rapid globalization of Chinese companies and increasing overseas direct investment, employees face higher risks while on business trips or international assignments, especially in less-developed countries and regions.

The company aims to provide strategic guidance for organizations to identify hazards and threats, and to help them manage risks appropriately to ensure the safety, health and security of their workers overseas.

"With outward Chinese investment reaching $85 billion in 2013, compared with $10 billion in 2005, it is clear China will be at the forefront of this increasingly large mobile workforce internationally," said John Williams, managing director of partnership and government affairs at the company.

A recent report by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers US, projected a 50 percent growth in mobile workers by 2020.

"To attract and retain the best talent, Chinese companies operating in and out of China must be responsible for the health and safety of their employees, which is the so-called duty of care," Williams said.

Accepted in many Western countries, duty of care is a concept that is fairly new to China.

Liu Yang, group senior vice-president of human resources at Antonoil Group, said Antonoil began to pay more attention to duty of care in recent years. The oil company has been a corporate member for International SOS for two years.

"We want to look after our employees, particularly those overseas, to make sure we attract and keep the best available to maintain competitive growth," he said.

"The framework will help us avert major risks facing employees overseas and to ensure their safety and health. It somewhat saves costs and trouble as well," Liu said.

For instance, the company's branch in Iraq could call the International SOS hotline, which operates 24/7, in case of an employee injury or sudden illness, and SOS local partners would provide medical assistance to ensure the best treatment possible.

Major risks for employees overseas include accidents and injuries, unwanted pregnancies for females, gastrointestinal tract diseases, and endemic diseases like malaria, said Yue Wei, an occupational health counselor for International SOS China.

A recent study showed that the cost of a failed international assignment is between three and five times the assignee's annual wage.

As a result, "more Chinese companies, particularly the State-owned ones, have become our members", Williams said.

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