Employee benefits in the event of terrorism

Employee benefits in the event of terrorism

In today’s guest article, it is my pleasure to welcome Laura Rossi-Manganotti, a Benefits expert working at Western Union. When she approached me with her idea to cover employee benefits in case of terrorism, I have to say I had some reservations given the sensitivity of the topic.

However, as you will surely agree, this is (unfortunately) a very relevant and useful subject that HR and C&B pros have to consider these days, irrespective of the country they’re in. So dive in, and go check your benefits plans.

Employee Benefits in the event of terrorism

The year 2015 ended on a sad note for those who have suffered from terrorist actions, either directly or indirectly.

In such unanticipated circumstances, HR professionals are compelled to cope with pressure from company management, Health and Safety Committees and other internal stakeholders.

Emotional challenges emerge from both employee supervisors and co-workers turning to HR for help. Uneasiness and anxiety to use public means of transport, and business areas considered as potential targets, are examples of challenges that may immediately impact the running of the business.

Preparing and enabling people managers, already dealing with their own emotions, to respond to disorientation, uncertainty, grief as well as recommending measures i.e. working from home are just some examples of the support that HR provide in time of crisis.

Another important area of involvement for HR is related to benefits and the actual insurance coverage.

Insurance policies may not define or exclude terrorism as a covered event. For each policy providing life, disability, business travel, medical benefits as well as workers compensation, it is important to be aware of the exclusions that may be applicable, and these may vary by country, even when using the same insurer.

For instance, terrorism may be considered as a covered event under a death-all causes policy, while it may not be considered as such under the accidental death insurance when it is not recognized as an accidental event. This may leave employees and in particular their families with reduced or very limited life benefits.

The insurance broker or the insurer(s) can help to understand if and how the employees (and in some instances, the eligible family members) are or are not covered.

Another aspect is whether the healthcare plan provides psychological assistance. It may be determined that only psychiatric support is reimbursed while visits with a psychologist are not, which may be more needed by those affected.

Occupational medical centers that may be contracted by the employer should be considered for their experience with stress management, emotional and sleeping disorders.

Companies offering Employee Assistance Programs may count on the prompt support of the provider that can be typically reached 24/7 by individuals, employee supervisors and family members. It is also important to remember that the need of assistance may manifest itself months after tragic events.

Employee Assistance Programs, even when available, are often forgotten as a viable benefit, hence it may be appropriate to encourage employees and team managers to use them through relevant communication.

In order to be ready to cope with similar unforeseen events, Benefit and HR management should assess the existing plans and address the gaps, if any. This may imply taking measures such as enhancing the existing cover through special terrorism insurance, working with Accounting to self-insure if needed, considering new providers, or introduce an Employee Assistance Program.


This article is dedicated to the HR colleagues of Western Union in Paris (France).



Based in Paris (France) and employed by the Reward Center of Excellence of Western Union, Laura Rossi-Manganotti has more than fifteen years of experience designing, developing, implementing benefits and compensation plans in Europe, Russia, Middle-East, Africa and Asia.  She began her career as junior consultant with Hewitt Associates before joining Towers Perrin, then working for LVMH, Bristol-Myers Squibb and other global companies.

The author would like to thank Timothy R. Cinalli, VP Global Benefits, Payroll and Mobility of Western Union, based in Englewood (CO), for the review of this article.

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