Duty of Care: 2020 and Beyond
Does your company monitor where employees are traveling for news alerts of risks such as severe weather or political uprisings? Does your company have a method for contacting employees or having them check in with the company in case of an emergency? Do you have a plan if an employee becomes severely ill or injured and must return home as soon as possible? These are all scenarios that fall under the concept of duty of care.
From earthquakes to virus outbreaks to civil unrest, corporate travelers face a host of risks and hazards. Their employers have a duty of care to oversee the health, safety and security of employees while traveling for business. Some of that duty has a legal basis, while some of its a moral imperative regardless of any particular statute.
A survey by Concur of 1,050 employees found that only 42 percent felt their company would be in a position to help them through a significant event during business travel. The survey also revealed that 53 percent of those travelers had been near a major incident during a business trip. During that time, 41 percent said they were not contacted by their company to check in on their status.
Taking care of employees while traveling is not only the right thing to do, it's good business. Employees will be more confident in their travel if the company has a plan to help them navigate a major event. Duty of care comes into play for local day trips as well as regional or international travel.
The legal requirements for duty of care vary by country. The standards are spelled out in the United Kingdom and Australia, whereas in the United States, there are no statutes directly governing corporate travel.
Companies must be able to track their travelers during a time of crisis. Designing a policy to create that seamless travel trip is a start, but implementing the policy is an entirely separate issue. Duty of care can become a meaningful corporate policy that ensures the investment in travel is productive for everyone involved.
Do you understand the difference between duty of care and risk management? The former is the "Why," the latter is "How." Duty of care is the legal and moral obligation to care for someone in your charge; in this case, employees traveling on the company's behalf. Risk management is the strategy the company uses to accomplish the duty of care.
Keep in mind the phrase is "risk management," not "risk elimination." It's impossible to eliminate risks from traveling, despite using reasonable precautions. To manage the risk of travel, a company should evaluate risks, mitigate risk whenever possible through preparation and education, and finally, insure against risks that can't be managed at a reasonable level.
While there are no U.S. laws outlining the responsibilities for corporate travel, employees have expectations that their health and safety will be a high priority for the company. A lack of a response plan could lead to dissatisfied employees and legal ramifications.
- Ensure employees use the corporate travel system so management can track where employees are in case of an emergency. Travelers who don't use the system and don't report their itineraries are out of reach.
- Be flexible with the travel budget to allow for higher quality transportation and lodging options to minimize risk.
- Check for travel advisories and U.S. State Department warnings
- Monitor news for weather and other events.
- Educate travelers on local customs and laws
- Educate travelers on airline security policies, especially in international markets.
- Research transportation and lodging safety ratings and reviews
- Check on vaccinations or other health precautions.
- Check the traveler's need for health or mobility accommodations.
- Have travelers store emergency contact and travel information in their mobile devices
- Arrange for traveler alerts and messages
- Arrange for a means to check in with travelers or have them check in regularly.
- Work with a travel risk management company that can advise employees in emergencies, such as evacuations.
When employees are traveling overseas, a company's top priority is ensuring their safe return. A safe, productive trip is the result of planning and preparation by the company and a well-informed traveler, connected with ample communication.