The number of overseas employees working for UK companies has increased by 13 percent from 4.39 million to 4.98 million according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics.

These figures reveal the largest numbers of employees working for UK controlled parent companies, known as UK Foreign Affiliates (UKFA’s).

The figure reveal that the United States holds the largest figure, with over 1 million employees currently working for UKFA’s, followed by India with just under 350,000 employees.

Countries with highest numbers of employees working in UKFAs:

Country Employees in UKFAs
United States 1,035,595
India 338,046
Germany 280,422
France 264,772
South Africa 221,886
Hong Kong 171,037
China 148,822
Australia 145,436
Brazil 140,748
Canada 136,216


The countries with the largest growth in employees working in a UKFA differed:

Country Employees in UKFAs % growth
Saint Lucia 5,007 13432
Barbados 1,630 3876
Guatemala 6,637 747
Papua New Guinea 34,384 726
Macao 3,259 646
Kuwait 2,954 546
Serbia 4,994 539
Congo, the Democratic Republic of the 8,766 419
Cameroon 6,462 402
Qatar 9,218 397


Doug Rice, managing director of Jelf International believes these figures are not surprising. He says:

“The list of countries with the highest numbers of employees working for UK Foreign Affiliates doesn’t contain many surprises. Most business are set up in countries where the UK currently or previously has had strong ties and where language and culture are similar – so traditionally this is Europe, the Commonwealth and G7 nations. One exception to this rule is Brazil but an explanation can be found in the fact that the reporting period was just prior to the World Cup.

“The high growth countries present a completely different picture to the high volume list and show the huge reach of UK companies around the globe. Many of these countries are economically developing rather than developed and as such their healthcare infrastructure is not on a par with the UK.

“Any company considering expanding overseas needs to take their employer duty of care extremely seriously when it comes to international private medical insurance. A routine treatment for a member of staff can be extremely expensive for a company to cover if it is paid for on a treatment-by-treatment basis, which is why many countries will not admit foreign workers without appropriate healthcare cover.”

Ensuring that international healthcare is appropriate, meets the employer’s duty of care and doesn’t blow the budget can be very tricky to get right. However, Jelf International, an employee benefits consultancy, believes many companies can employ a ‘common-sense approach’, applying the same rules for employee health insurance to staff in multiple destinations. Only when a policy is taken out that problems occur for the company; if a policy isn’t adequate, not only does the cost of the individual or company become an issue but also the quality of healthcare and the ability to be repatriated if necessary.

Rice concludes:

“This is an extremely fast-moving area – rules and regulations change all the time and so it is best to seek advice from an expert. Unfortunately for expanding businesses, simply applying common sense isn’t adequate. If an employee unexpectedly needs treatment the employer may be left with huge bills that, condition-dependent, can run in to hundreds of thousands of pounds.”