Expatriates in war regions

Important advice for companies

In the current crisis surrounding the Ukraine-Russia war, it is becoming clear how geopolitical risks and changing security environments are influencing the danger situation for expatriates. Companies have an obligation to prepare and secure their employees accordingly.

The first question is what is a crisis region and what are the conditions there. Ukraine, for example, has been considered a crisis region ever since the annexation of Crimea because of the increased danger level. Many companies have therefore had contingency plans in place for years. These apply to war regions, areas threatened by terror, or even pandemics.

Employer’s duty of care toward expats in war regions

Even before sending employees, companies have a moral as well as a legal duty to check the geopolitical conditions of the target country, to inform the expat about them and, in the case of war regions, to install a detailed crisis management system. According to §618 of the German Civil Code, employers are obligated to “regulate services to be performed under their order or direction in such a way that the obligated person is protected against danger to life and limb…” This also includes the duty to inform of the posting company.

Emergency concept for assignments in crisis areas

If a personnel assignment is planned in a crisis area, the information about the danger situation must be complete, so that the employee no longer needs to research it himself. The information must be provided to the expatriate prior to departure, be appropriate and up-to-date, and reflect the security advisories of the German Foreign Office. In addition, an emergency plan should be developed to provide for the expat’s rapid repatriation from the crisis area. Contingency plans can be prepared and organized by a professional security service provider, if necessary.

Passive war risk in insurance coverage

In practice, some expatriate health insurance providers exclude the so-called passive war risk. This means that insurers will not pay out in the event of illness or injury resulting from wartime events. Therefore, the insurance cover for expatriates should definitely include the passive war risk. If, on the other hand, someone commits acts of war themselves or defies official orders to protect their own safety, they are placing themselves in a so-called active war risk, which is generally excluded from insurance coverage.

Medical assistance in case of war

Expats should also note that in the event of a war, medical assistance services can no longer be guaranteed to the full extent. For example, it should actually be ensured that individuals are transported home or to a hospital to receive the appropriate medical care. Currently, however, an expat who falls ill in Ukraine or Russia could not, in effect, be brought home due to the flight ban.

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