Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often work in harm’s way to help under-served or at-risk populations around the world. They enter conflict zones when others depart, and they deploy taskforces to areas with outbreaks of disease. Simply put, their employees have very different exposures to those sat typing in an air-conditioned office in a developed country.
NGO workforces are typically made up of both expatriate workers and local staff – those local to the area the NGO is working in. The NGO has a duty of care for all employees, regardless of their nationality, but while most organizations are well-meaning, providing appropriate insurance and benefits to local nationals can sometimes be challenging.
“While most NGOs have addressed concerns around insuring their expatriate workers, taking care of them, and providing them with robust benefits, they still face some challenges around taking care of their local staff,” said Abdallah Ahmed, vice president, Global Organizations, Clements Worldwide. With clients in over 170 countries, and the largest insurance provider for NGOs, Ahmed is no stranger to the challenges NGOs face while working in high-risk environments.
“This has become a much bigger issue in the past few years because more and more NGOs and organizations are demanding insurance solutions that also cover local national staff with the same level of benefits as expatriate staff, especially in these high-risk zones,” Ahmed added. “It has become more important to NGOs, so we’ve worked hard to find creative solutions that enable NGOs to insure their local nationals and provide them with robust care and benefits, without violating the regulatory and licensing requirements of the countries in which they’re operating.”
The biggest risks NGOs face are around their internal processes and not adapting their approaches quick enough when their exposures evolve – something that happens often in high-risk zones. As Ahmed pointed out, a country might be stable and advancing one day, and then the next day be interrupted out of the blue by an unforeseen political event. Adapting quickly to changes like this is part of an NGO’s duty of care to its staff.
Providing adequate medical coverage and benefits to all staff, including local nationals, is also part of an organization’s duty of care. If NGOs fail to address this appropriately, they could leave themselves open to corporate exposures. This is where the NGO’s insurance advisor or broker can really step up and “connect the dots,” according to Ahmed.
“A client might have a limited budget or one specific concern. It’s the broker’s job to look at the account in a holistic way and identify all of the potential exposure the NGO may face,” he told Insurance Business. “For example, a client may have a concern around providing compliant coverage for local staff. What they might not think about is the employment practices exposure and the employer’s liability exposure that’s tied into addressing coverage for local nationals. What if a local worker feels they’re not working in a safe environment? What kind of local facilities do they have access to in order to get the assistance they need? Is the out-of-pocket amount too high for local nationals to be able to afford assistance?
“Even though an NGO client may come to you with one concept or idea in which they believe they have a pain point, advisors and brokers must take a step back, look at that risk holistically, and determine how feasible the client’s requests are. They have to put the client ahead of everything and be really cognisant of the worst-case scenario, so that they’re addressing the root of the problem and all of the client’s unforeseen exposures.”