Today, business is increasingly global, and with that global reach comes travel. In 2018, according to the U.S. Travel Association, business travel spending topped $327 billion, and 2019 shows no signs of slowing down. Given the ever-changing global environment, an employer’s “duty of care” to its employees is a topic that has permeated business circles, particularly as it pertains to the liability organizations hold should something go wrong during business travel.
Whether the region your employees are traveling to is deemed turbulent or safe, accidents and emergencies can crop up anywhere, at any time. How can businesses keep their liability in check?
Understand Your Obligation: What Does Duty of Care Mean?
Duty of care is the responsibility organizations hold for their employees, including as they travel on company business. While its meaning extends beyond simply a moral obligation, the limitations of legal precedent are not black and white, and it is always best practice to consult legal counsel on specific matters. For example, when creating risk assessments for clients, we can work hand in hand with counsel to ensure we are cross-checking the client’s legal responsibility, too.
When considering the latest safety measures in travel, businesses cannot turn a blind eye to potential dangers. They must prepare to meet their responsibilities for duty of care—including in regions that are typically seen as low risk. As organizations assume a greater responsibility for their employees while they are “on the clock,” there are core steps leaders can take to deploy a travel risk management plan to help fulfill their duty of care.
Conduct Pretravel Assessments and Gather Employee Guidance
Understanding the regions your employees will be traveling to is critical in being able to fulfill duty of care requirements. Gone are the days of simply booking flights and hotels; today’s organizations must gather information on many aspects of employee travel.
Embassies, reputable hospitals, local law enforcement, evacuation routes—organizations should inform employees where these places are and provide instructions on how to get to them. Additionally, organizations should share the contact details of these important resources with employees to be used in the event issues arise.
While some of this may feel commonplace for high-risk areas, this information is also needed for places that may seem safe or low-risk—contingency planning is always needed. For example, in the event of a natural disaster, have you identified a place of safety to which employees can evacuate? Do you have insurance for this kind of evacuation? If there’s a medical emergency, what is the protocol?
Educate Employees—And Yourself
Driving awareness goes beyond an employer’s understanding; it also includes educating the employees who are traveling. Though communicating protocol in emergency situations is valuable, employees can also be trained to thwart travel risk during everyday tasks.
Employers can share a “Travel Checklist” with employees that includes tips such as:
- Use company-endorsed travel booking and accommodation tools versus non-endorsed, employee-researched vendors.
- Always use verified transportation services to travel between locations once on the ground.
- Maintain an awareness of local laws and cultural norms. Employers should share resources to help employees find this type of information.
- Share tips on cyber hygiene—like avoiding public WiFi and leveraging a virtual private network (VPN).
- Conduct a post-travel debrief to inform future travel.
As duty of care varies on a case-by-case basis, the best practice organizations can use is to consult their counsel on plans, preparations, and questions—particularly as laws and expectations change. In a constantly evolving world, is your organization prepared?