Everything You Need to Know About Duty of Care and Risk Management 

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Corporate travel plays a major role in the lives of countless employees today. It carries risks, however, and this is especially true with the current legal, political, and travel enviroments. 

It's important to give serious thought to your employee's comfort and safety, especially when it comes to overseas travel. Unfortunately some businesses fail to consider anything other than just the expense of the travel itself. 

Most employers have an understanding that it's their responsibility to make sure employees are safe and comfortable during business travel. In legal terms, it's called Duty of Care. This applies to any type of travel, even local day trips. When it comes to overseas travel, however, there are always additional risks and issues to consider when ensuring your traveling employees are safe.

What Is Duty Of Care?

As an employer, duty of care means that you behave and conduct your business in a manner that is responsible, vigilant and safe for your employees. This is more than just a moral obligation, as failing this can result in legal action for negligence.

What Does This Mean For International Travel?

International travel poses increased chances for complications, delays, and safety issues. Your employees traveling abroad are counting on their employers to help keep them safe. It's a good idea to have a complete understanding of your responsibilities.

Preventing Harm Is A Top Priority

When your employee is traveling overseas, your top priority is making sure they return safely. A pleasant and safe trip is more likely when the trip is well-planned and thought out, well-informed and allows for ample communication. The following are some tips to help ensure this happens.

Do Your Research

Thoroughly research the location prior to making arrangements. Is the country and city safe for travel? Obviously you can't predict everything. Incidents can happen anywhere, but due diligence is mandated. Check for travel advisories. Contact embassies for any kind of travel warnings. This information is easily attainable online or with a phone call. 

Researching the relative safety of a destination is important, but it doesn't stop there. It's important to research the laws and customs of a country as well, and to be sure your employee has a full understanding of these prior to departure. You do not want your employee inadvertently breaking local laws or violating customs. Aside from risking fines or being detained, visitors to foreign locations are ambassadors, not only for their country of origin, but also your company. 

Be sure your employee understands and will respect all laws and customs. They should also be briefed on all recent security policies with regard to airline travel. This is constantly changing, so it is up to you to stay informed and alert to avoid delays and problems for you and your employee.

Transportation And Lodging

Your research should also include transportation and lodging. Part of due diligence is ensuring that you secure safe, reliable transport. Obviously accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, but by taking the extra time to research and secure reputable transportation companies, you not only ensure the safety of your employee to the best of your ability, you also fulfill your duty of care.

This extends to lodging. Is the hotel in a good neighborhood? Is there any history of complaint about safety and security? Have complaints been filed formally or informally? Ask around, read reviews and take any security matters seriously.

Assistance And Points Of Contact

Who will assist your employee if any needs or concerns arise? Who is the point of contact? Is there a live person at the destination who can provide assistance? How will contact be maintained? What are the expectations on your part, and the part of the employee as far as keeping in touch and monitoring travels? Has the employee been briefed on company policies and procedures when traveling overseas for business?

It's also important to have contingency plans in place should there be a problem. The employee should understand where to go get help at the destination and should have a thorough understanding of steps to take should they lose contact with home, lose their passport or documentation, get injured, sick, etc. Part of duty of care is ensuring that the employee be properly educated. If they don't have the proper information, it's you who could be held liable.

Health Considerations

Staying healthy while traveling is another important point to keep in mind when planning travel overseas. Don't leave it to the employee when it comes to health. Some questions to ask: Is the employee healthy enough for travel? Are there any vaccinations or other health precautions that should be taken prior to travel? Does the employee require any health or mobility accommodations and are they easily available at the destination?

Are there any destination-specific health risks the employee should be aware of? Never assume your employee will be doing their own research, or that hotel or airport staff will be forthcoming with any information. Duty of Care applies in all areas of travel planning. 

Be Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page

In your company there may be more than one department involved in planning business trips. It's important that everyone be on the same page and fully understand Duty of Care. This includes any accounting and budgeting persons, upper management, etc. Budgeting personnel may balk at allotting increased funds to ensure a more reputable transportation company or pricier accommodations, for example, or sending two employees for safety reasons, etc. It's important that everyone involved understand that it is far less expensive in the long run to do all that can be done to ensure the safety, comfort and security of employees during any company travel.

Standard Policies And Procedures

Creating strong and specific policies and procedures when it comes to travel for employees will ensure safe, pleasant travel and minimizes risk for your business. These policies should be iron-clad and apply across the board to all employees. 

Duty of Care isn't a concept, it's a legal term. Negligence lawsuits are costly and hurt everyone in the company, including employees. It's important to not only protect individual employees but also to protect the interests of your business. 

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