As organisations continue to thrive and expand their global footprint, business travel and foreign work assignments remain critical to business success. Whilst an increased movement of the workforce around the globe is inevitably essential for strategic growth, this rise in global mobility understandably brings with it inherent risks to both the individual and the organisation. From political or civil unrest, natural disasters, exposure to disease… to simply being caught off-guard in unfamiliar locations, these employees can find themselves encountering a wide range of scenarios out of their control.
Duty of care has become engrained in many organisations’ policies and processes for dealing with potential risks in the workplace. But this becomes far more complex when that workplace could literally be anywhere in the world. So how do you ensure that you’re providing adequate duty of care for your employees and others under your global care remit?
Firstly, it’s important to remind ourselves what duty of care means. In its simplest form, duty of care is an employer's responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this. This means making sure those workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health1. An employer can be deemed to have breached their duty of care by failing to do everything that was reasonable in the circumstances to keep said individuals safe from harm.
“Whatever is reasonably practicable” is a broad term and obviously open to a certain amount of ambiguity. It’s not surprising then that there can often be confusion around what is needed in order to provide the necessary duty of care for all concerned, especially when it comes to travel or relocation. A good place to start is with reviewing the travel policies themselves.
Getting your travel policy issues in order
Although travel policies are often seen as the exclusive realm of the travel manager, it’s important that HR and Mobility stakeholders (amongst others) play a key role in creating and reviewing them, particularly when it comes to the subject of managing risk.
For organisations without the internal resources to create and administer an all-encompassing travel risk management programme, ensuring that they have ticked all the necessary duty of care boxes within their travel policy can undoubtedly be a challenge.
Even companies with a strong track record in safety and security may have some gaps when it comes to ensuring the wellbeing of their travelling employees. Whilst some of these gaps may not seem significant in themselves, oversights, however small, could be perceived as negligence. Common gaps in standard travel policies include:
- The policy omits safety and security considerations altogether
- The policy differentiates between different levels of seniority – with one set of considerations for senior management and a different set for other employees
- The company fails to inform and educate their employees on general and specific travel risks
- The company does not document when they have advised employees on travel or personal safety
- The travel security programme focuses purely on high-risk foreign travel rather than including domestic travel
- Safety and security considerations are not part of the initial procurement criteria
- Risk assessments do not use a door-to-door approach and thus ignore such factors as the trip to the airport in an employee’s own car or the transfer to the hotel after a long-haul flight
- The company does not test its crisis management plan regularly
- The company does not have a dedicated, fully-mapped travel risk management strategy in place
Do any of these sound familiar?
How to successfully manage duty of care for travelling employees
In order to ensure that corporate travel policies really do encompass all of the necessary duty of care requirements, organisations to take a step back and examine the end to end process. Breaking it down into logical stages makes this far easier to manage. In essence, a successful duty of care programme can be achieved by following a number of basic steps:
Understanding the risks - The first important step an organisation needs to take is to determine and analyse their global travel exposure. In order to do this, they need to collate information on all of their travelling employees worldwide, taking into account locations, job functions, employee behaviour, mitigating circumstances and dependent travel.
Special locations, risks and coverages must also be considered - for example, the needs of expatriate and long-term assignees will require different considerations to the needs of short-term business travellers.
Developing the policy – The organisation then needs to develop a travel risk policy with key stakeholders and experts. The risk policy needs to be fully engrained within the overarching travel policy and communicated to all. This should include protocols on both proactive and reactive strategies and include clear guidance on the roles and responsibilities of internal and external stakeholders, clarifying the various insurance and assistance partners and programmes in place (security and medical, evacuation and assistance etc.)
Training – Once the policy is established, employees need to be educated to ensure that they fully understand the commitment undertaken by their organisation but also the roles that they themselves need to play.
Relevant training and education programmes then need to be provided for employees, arrangers and managers, ranging from online awareness courses on general travel risks and how to avoid or reduce them, to medical risks and specific country preparation and intercultural training.
Monitoring – The more prepared organisations and their employees are, the more successful each assignment or trip will be. The first form of required monitoring is geographical. Providing trusted pre- and on-trip information covering destination risk assessments, medical information and country profiles will ensure that organisations and their employees are as prepared as they possibly can be before any journey or assignment even takes place.
The second form of monitoring is that of the individual employee. Possessing real-time data on their static locations (residence and work), scheduled and live travel itineraries will empower organisations to take the necessary measures to help ensure their safety. Deploying a tracking system that allows organisations to locate and communicate quickly and clearly with employees is also critical to managing and mitigating risks and ensuring a positive outcome.
Support – Offering both reactive and proactive support for employees 24/7 is a key component of any effective duty of care programme. Organisations may have updated intelligence or guidance that they need to share with employees before or during their assignment; employees themselves may have their own security or medical concerns, pertaining to their assignment that they require advice on or assistance with.
Having the right communication channels in place and highly skilled advisors on hand around the clock can help organisations and individuals to pre-empt, where possible, and to deal effectively with potential incidents that they may face.
Response – Rare as they may be, there will be times when organisations and their employees could find themselves faced with the seemingly unimaginable. Implementing an incident management programme to plan for, avoid and respond to such crisis situations (e.g. emergency evacuations, providing close protection services during security incidents, dealing with kidnap for ransom cases etc.) is therefore vital. This incident management plan should be developed with all involved parties, internally and externally, and be regularly updated and tested.
Remember, it’s not all about dealing with major incidents
Whilst managing travel to stereotypically higher risk destinations or considering the implications of a major incident are obviously important, we do need to keep risk in perspective and remember that the most common risks faced by employees are far more ‘ordinary’. But however ordinary, they can still have a serious impact on those concerned. Employees away from their home locations are more likely to be taken ill, to be caught up in a road traffic accident or to fall victim to petty crime than they are to be affected by a major incident per se. Upsetting enough as these events may be on home soil, the impact on an individual in an unfamiliar environment is greatly exacerbated. Preparing your organisation and employees for how to deal with the ‘minor’ is therefore just as important as preparing them for how to deal with the ‘major’.
Corporate HR and Mobility Managers are already juggling a lot. Add into the equation the extended responsibility for duty of care provision and it can feel like an overwhelming task - but it doesn’t need to be.
Yes, duty of care requires careful planning and a cooperative effort across all departments within your organisation, but luckily there are organisations that can both advise on and help you to implement the policies and procedures required to enable compliance.
Understanding the risks you are exposing your people to, assessing the risks and having the necessary risk mitigation measures in place are all crucial. Fall short on any of these and you could be falling a long way short of fulfilling your fundamental duty of care requirements.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do you have a clear and accurate real-time picture of the risks and the dynamic threats your people may face?
- Do you have the right policies and procedures in place to contextualise, understand and treat these risks?
- Are the policies and procedures engrained across the whole organisation? Are they documented, understood and complied with?
- Before an assignment commences, is a comprehensive risk assessment carried out and are adequate control measures in place?
- Are your employees provided with the necessary briefings and training to prepare them for all possible eventualities, before they actually depart?
If the answer to any of these is no, then it’s time to step in and put duty of care firmly back on the map.
Anvil delivers advanced business resilience solutions that protect what matters most to you. Using our award-winning technology platforms, we enable you to accurately assess both pre-existing and dynamically changing risks, wherever they are on the planet.
Our highly experienced analysts are available 24/7 to advise you on the best action to take to keep your people and operations safe. And we provide on-the-ground support to protect your employees, property and business operations. Simply, Anvil puts you in control.
From people on the move and products in transit through to investing in new facilities and entering new markets, with Anvil, you’re ready for anything.