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Heading out on a work trip? Here's what you need to know about insurance coverage while working abroad

April 14, 2023
5 mins
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A recent TD Insurance survey highlights that a third of Canadians will not be purchasing travel insurance as they believe it’s too expensive. Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, there’s no telling when an incident, injury, or illness can come knocking on your door.

Let’s say you’re heading out of Canada for a week-long business trip or a temporary, six-month assignment. Do you use regular travel insurance when going abroad? Does it matter how long you’re gone for? And would your employer or group insurance plan cover you, as it’s a work trip?

Here's everything you need to know about travel insurance coverage while working abroad.

Can you use regular travel insurance?

Travel insurance is secondary insurance. If you’re covered by a primary health care plan, travel insurance will pay after the primary coverage is exhausted. Most insurance providers will require that you are covered for the full duration under the Government Health Insurance Plan (GHIP) to be eligible for maximum emergency medical benefits.

“Travel insurance should be sufficient insurance to cover you while working abroad,” says Christina Tunnah, the general manager of marketing and brands at World Nomads, a leading travel insurance provider. “However, this does depend on the type of work you are doing and the policy you buy.”

While World Nomads, for instance, covers more than 150 adventure, sports, work, and volunteer experiences, they may not necessarily cover everything. “All travel insurance has exclusions, which will vary by company and policy,” she explains.

For Canadian residents, work like teaching, bartending, office, and retail work is covered by World Nomads, but riskier jobs like ski instructing, mountaineering, rock climbing, and working in offshore rigs would be excluded.

Additionally, for travel insurance to be valid, individuals must obey local laws and the mores of the countries you’re visiting.

“If you’re working abroad, you will need the proper visa or permit required by the country you’re travelling to. If you’re a digital nomad, you’ll need to ensure that it’s allowed by your host country too,” Tunnah adds.

What if it’s a short work trip?

Whether travelling for a week or six months, Tunnah says that your travel insurance should cover you in the same manner.

“However, note that every insurance provider has different rules around maximum duration and whether or not you can extend a plan once you’ve started your trip,” she says.

For Canadian residents, World Nomads offers a maximum duration of 365 days.

“If you buy a shorter duration policy and then decide to extend your trip and your policy, you can do so as long as you meet all the required conditions as stated in the policy documents,” she adds.

Whether or not travel insurance will be covered by the group insurance plan depends on the employer. Tunnah recommends that the traveller check with their benefits manager to learn what coverage may exist.

Why should you opt for travel insurance?

Canadian healthcare may not always be accepted abroad, so getting sick or injured abroad without emergency medical coverage– including emergency evacuation and repatriation costs – can be very costly.

“In addition to potential costs, in some countries, hospitals may refuse to treat you without proof of coverage,” Tunnah says. “If you’re travelling to locations without adequate healthcare facilities, your travel insurance may be able to arrange for emergency evacuation to a better facility. And in the absolute worst-case scenario, repatriation coverage can bring you home to Canada.”

Travelling with travel insurance is also a responsible thing to do. She notes that emergency medical and evacuation to another area can avoid putting a strain on local resources, especially in more rural areas.

While travel insurance may be expensive, it saves you from facing thousands of dollars in medical bills and emotional distress in a foreign country. One way to ensure you’re getting the lowest rate is to compare travel insurance rates from multiple providers.

Lastly, whichever insurance company you choose, Tunnah advises customers to read the policy thoroughly, noting exclusions, terms, and conditions of coverage.

“We know the policy documents are long but grab a cup of Tim Horton’s and dig in, so you don’t face a surprise if you need to claim!”

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Shaistha Khan

Shaistha Khan is an editor and writer at RATESDOTCA. She is a journalist, writer, and communications specialist with 13 years of experience across the personal finance, business and professional development, oil and gas, and travel and tourism industries. She has worked as a content editor and writer in seven countries, with Canada being the most recent.

She holds a Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) and a diploma in Public Relations and Reputation Management.

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