Employers are being advised to encourage staff to be completely open about their health history when travelling for business, to avoid risking medical complications abroad.

The advice was recently offered by the insurance broker Towergate Health & Protection which warned how different environments can aggravate existing health conditions but that knowing the medical history of an employee means that businesses can risk-assess a country before sending an employee abroad, and support an existing health condition.

For example, an employee who has asthma may struggle in areas with severe air pollution — such as Beijing in China.

However, knowing about the medical condition in advance enables the business and individual to make a thoroughly researched decision — such as working around the air pollution by not travelling at rush hour and ensuring a robust supply of inhalers — or sending the employee to a different location entirely.

In addition, certain medicines may not be allowed in some countries. Drugs or pain killers that are accessible in the UK, such as medicinal cannabis products, may be banned abroad — meaning that a health condition can’t be managed as effectively in another country, or the employee may suffer heightened discomfort.

In a statement, Towergate Health & Protection said, “Employers should encourage staff to declare their medical history before travelling for business, to avoid potentially costly and complex healthcare issues once abroad.

“Failure to conduct healthcare due diligence in advance could result in a tricky confrontation at customs, removal of medication required in a foreign country or prosecution. Laws of each country where staff travel need to be understood and complied with.”

Last reviewed 27 August 2019