Does your company keep good surveillance of its employees who travel at the risk of bad weather or civil unrest? Does your company follow a copacetic technique to contact employees in case of an emergency? Does your company have an appropriate plan to reinstate employees who become ill or injured during business trips? These are some of the plots that propel a plan to conceptualize the duty of care.
From stress to earthquakes to virus outbreaks, corporate travelers encounter a series of foreseeable and unforeseeable risks. The company’s leadership – often in consultation with the travel and HR departments – needs to put together a thorough plan to oversee the health, safety, and security of the employees who travel for business. This plan with the legal and moral imperative for the welfare of its employees is often referred to as the duty of care.
What is Duty of Care?
According to a leading independent insurer, “Duty of care presumes individuals and organizations have legal obligations to act toward others and the public in a prudent and cautious manner to avoid the risk of reasonably foreseeable injury to others. Employers have the moral and legal responsibility and obligation for the health, safety, and security of their employees, especially those traveling on behalf of the employer.” Duty of care thus covers a wide area of risks and hazards. Health and safety, discrimination and bullying, stress and violence, natural and man-made disasters are some of the common ones. It is actually a demonstration of concern for the employees by the employer to ensure safety by planning and taking every precaution needed for their betterment.
Duty of Care and Corporate Travel
The moral and legal responsibility of a company on the duty of care does not limit within their home or office of work. It must be able to give them protection irrespective of where they travel for business. For the corporate traveler, the duty of care offers them protection and confidence even if they are landing in a strange city, and the feeling of their company being there to back them in case of any emergency alleviates stress to a great extend. When an employee is sent on a business trip, many things can potentially go wrong. The employer needs to be vigilant and to be prepared for whatever happens. Some problems that corporate travelers face frequently are missing flights, misplacing important documents, illness, and accidents that require medical attention, etc.
The concept of duty of care and risk management in business travel is often misunderstood and sometimes regarded as synonyms. But in reality, these two are related but have a different definition. Duty of care as mentioned is the obligation a company owes to the safety, security, and wellbeing of its employees while they travel for work. In order to fulfill the duty of care, a company must undergo a large number of processes and tactics. Travel risk management is one such tactic or strategy. The risk management process is the means by which the company will uphold its ‘duty of care’. In other words, you can fulfill some of major your duty of care aspects through implementing travel risk management procedures.
Post-Covid: Additional Responsibilities
Covid -19 outbreak is regarded as one of the deadliest pandemics in the first half of the 21st century. The impact of this pandemic on business travel is massive and forced travelers around the world grounded from March 2020. Many individuals are self-selecting themselves out of the skies due to concerns over health risks and potential exposure to the virus, and many employers calling time on business travel in order to keep their employees safe. With the growing concern for the safety of their employees, companies have been voluntarily making alterations in the duty of care.
After the newly introduced vaccines, the situation seems to be getting back to the good old days of locomotion sooner. When we take the case of other historic pandemics, everything had returned to normal eventually and no pandemic had stayed forever. Now companies have started planning and thinking about how they can protect their employees in a Post-Covid world. The duty of care could see some additional responsibilities in the coming years.
- Companies will need to properly monitor the infection rates by geography and where they can safely allow employees to travel.
- Must consider private transfer options as opposed to mass transit.
- May need to favor certain travel providers, airlines and hotel which follow better and strict controls.
- Entertainment activities will have to be cut down including dining out and activities including large gatherings.
- Evacuation and medical assistance teams should be up for the employees on travel round the clock.
- Should pay attention to travel tracking and alert systems provided by the company.
Duty of care is becoming a higher priority for companies in this day and age. As business travel plays a pivotal role, businesses need to travel despite all the risks and uncertainty associated with it. To safeguard the employees on travel both companies and government will be imposing a duty of care stringently. In THe United States, for example, the duty of care is considered to be a mandatory legal requirement for companies of all sizes. The employees are educated and informed about their rights, whereas strict actions are taken against the employers who fail to provide a better duty of care.
Major Challenges and How to Overcome Them
There are many challenges employees have to face when traveling to different parts of the world. Here we are going to discuss some of the major challenges and ways to overcome it.
- Health and Sanitation: Health issues are something that we cannot predict, all we can do is plan everything as much as possible in advance. It might be hard to find healthcare facilities in all the areas the employees travel. Therefore, the company must make sure the travelers know where they can get medical support before they need it. By sticking to safe eating and drinking habits, the risk of becoming ill can be reduced and it’s worth remembering that some parts of the world might not have the same hygiene standards as at home. In case of any outbreaks like Covid-19, it is necessary to make sure that the traveler takes all courses of vaccines before their trip.
- Political Issues: We witness many protests and civil unrest in countries today and these political instabilities jeopardize the traveler and whole travel plans alike. So there should be careful planning when traveling to and within politically unstable countries. The travelers must be given prompt alerts and updates on political situations to avoid any risks. A tracking system could be adopted to understand the location of the employees and to give appropriate advice when the need arises.
- Secure Accommodation: Even a small theft can ruin even an entire trip, so the security of the accommodation must be given paramount consideration. To ensure safety and security an employer must research where the employees are staying, make sure what are the security measures one should follow. Always find accommodation with front desk staffed 24 hours a day. Also, the use of technologies like Google Street View to survey the surrounding area can come in handy.
- Partners and Trust: Partners trust is another challenge that a company should take into consideration especially while sending its employees to other countries. Always choose safe, vatted, and trusted third-party services. Whether you’re booking air, hotel, car, or shuttle options, the contracted travel agents must clear the safety and security guidelines of the third party beforehand. The contracted travel agents must also offer smart recommendations and critical information during the entire trip.
- Female Traveler Safety: Female business travelers are likely to face more risks than their male counterparts. According to a recent report released by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AIG, 83% of women have had concerns about their safety while on a business trip. To add to the point only a small percentage of travel policies address the safety of the female traveler. To overcome this issue female travelers should be alerted of the challenges they may face on the go. Travel tracking systems can also help female travelers to move around safely. This requires the company to educate them about the relevance of these systems in ensuring their safety.
How to Write a Duty of Care Policy for Travel
Developing a good Duty of Care travel policy is a matter of great responsibility, but certainly, there are some simple steps you can take to craft the best system for your organization. Before you start, always consider the specific risks your employees face. Discuss with them in person about the parts of their activities during the trips that might be perilous.
Next, make sure the company is in line to meet all the risks or to maintain safety if they occur. It is very important to define what ‘Duty of Care’ means for your company. How much protection or aid are you willing or able to provide? Make sure to clearly communicate who is accountable for which aspects of your policy. If members of your team don’t know what their responsibilities are when it comes to duty of care, the policy is useless.
Here are a few things to clarify before you implement an efficient and successful duty of care travel policy:
- Data authenticity: The employee data must be accurate and up-to date. This includes employee contact information, employee travel schedules, and real-time tracking capability. Always update this information so that if an emergency occurs, your team can contact quickly.
- Preparedness: Be prepared for anything and everything. Preparation is key to any effective policy. Think about all of the possible crises your business travelers could find themselves in, and come up with an action plan for each of those.
- Technology: Utilise the technology to the fullest. Look for tools available that may help you with various tasks, and make the best out of them. Real-time location tracking and multi-channel communication are meant to make life easier for everyone involved. Updated technologies are very critical, especially when dealing with a crisis.
- News Alerts: Regular travel Alerts and updates let you be in control while making travel booking and approval decisions. Although it can be a bit overwhelming to continuously watch the various stream of updates flowing in, getting access to the right information at the right time can be life saving.
- Good communication: Free flow of communication is vital when your employees are out there for business. This practice will let employees know their employer is committed to their wellbeing and security. Proper communication also lets the employee perform maximum out of the task that has been assigned to them.
When the employees are traveling, the company’s predominant consideration must be to ensure safety and security throughout the journey. A safe and productive trip is only possible with a good Duty of Care policy. A great duty of care policy can be created through intense research, proper planning, and execution with efficient communication and collaborated efforts of the management and concerned departments, as well as the participation of well-informed employees.