Duty of Care: Your Company's Responsibility for Its Travelers

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Many of your employees travel regularly as part of their business duties. For big companies, those travel expenses can stack up fast, so you may find yourself trying to cut corners in order to reduce expenses. Unfortunately, reducing expenses can also lead to more dangers for your employees and as a company, you have a duty of care to ensure that you are doing everything you could reasonably be expected to do in order to ensure the safety of traveling members of your team. By following a few simple steps, you can improve the overall safety of your team members and create a more desirable working environment even when employees are on the road.

Where are my travelers?

According to a 2010 study, less than half of companies knew where their global travelers were at any given time. This means that if a disaster were to occur, the burden is on the employees to assess the situation and decide how to react next. Many will also struggle with where to place the financial burden of any expenses incurred during such unexpected events. Does a natural disaster that necessitates changing plane tickets mean that the company eats the cost? What about unanticipated extra days in a hotel? By knowing where your employees are and communicating with them when they travel, it's easier for your company to assess what needs to be done in order to keep employees as safe and secure as possible even when and if disasters arise around them.

Typically, it's the HR team that is responsible for monitoring workers during the traveling process. They should be aware of when employees depart, when they arrive, when they check in, and any other key parts of the travel process. Communicating daily with workers, even if it's just a quick email, phone call, or text, can help ensure that the travel process is moving smoothly and that employees have everything they need.

The Potential Risks

Travel is fairly routine for your company. It's not uncommon for workers to hop on a plane and be anywhere in the world in a matter of a few hours. You work from many different locations, and your employees are adept at handling many of their responsibilities remotely. Because it's become so commonplace, however, your company may lose track of the potential risks associated with travel, including:

Chronic jet lag

This type of jet lag, resulting from frequent travel, can lead to faster aging, memory impairment, and a host of other problems. Giving frequent travelers time to adjust and adapt when they have to be on the road can help decrease this particular health hazard, as can reducing the number of times per month that each member of the team is expected to travel.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters can leave your employees struggling to cope with unplanned changes. Even small weather issues like snow can leave employees stranded quickly, often when they have plans that require them to be home as soon as possible. Keeping an eye on weather conditions, planning ahead, and creating a policy that lets employees know how to respond to natural disasters can help keep employees safer.

Cultural differences

Differences can leave travelers to deal with situations they couldn't have planned for. A woman traveling in a country where modesty is paramount, for example, should be warned about appropriate attire ahead of time. Research what other American travelers say about the country your employees will be traveling to, and make sure your employees are appropriately prepared.

Injuries

Injuries can happen anywhere, especially when employees travel to unfamiliar territory. Illness can also be a serious concern since travelers are likely to be exposed to many unfamiliar germs.

Pickpockets

Frustrating enough when you're at home, but it's even worse when you're traveling and away from your resources. Having a company policy in place to deal with things like stolen wallets (including passports, IDs, and other critical items) can help employees best handle these types of emergencies.

Doing Your Research

No matter whether employees are traveling to a new country or a nearby state, doing your research is paramount. Sure, you don't know anything about the area, but that doesn't mean you can't send your employees there! In order to effectively handle this travel, however, duty of care must include doing the right research before travel begins.

Know your employees

Do you have employees with existing medical conditions or potential health complications? If so, it's important to be sure that the area where you're sending them has the right type of medical care available to take care of their needs. Take the time to check out the nearest hospitals and other facilities, even if you're only sending your employees a short distance away.

Research the destination

For example, if it's hurricane season, you might want to avoid sending employees to coastal cities. Look for information about natural disasters or recent events in the area which your employees are planning to travel to.

Share information

It's not just about what you know about the destination. It's also about what your employees know! Provide them with a brief about their destination. Include cultural concerns, relevant geographic information, upcoming weather forecasts, and information about the important locations to be aware of, such as a nearby hospital. If other employees have been there in the past, information about hotels and restaurants can also be rather helpful.

Insure Your Travel

Travel insurance: just what does it really cover? While you should certainly have a travel insurance policy that will allow you to be reimbursed if your employee doesn't end up traveling as expected, you should also have a travel insurance policy covers the costs of traveling employees if they are injured throughout the course of their travels, covers lost and delayed luggage, and covers any other travel disruption that accrues unforeseen costs. Make sure your policy applies to each country where your employees might be traveling. Insurance that covers travel doesn't just help your company. It also helps increase employee confidence if they're ill or injured while traveling.

The hazards of corporate travel are often possible to avoid with a little preparation ahead of time. By doing your research and planning accordingly, you can transform your employees' safety while traveling and discharge that important duty of care so that they are safe, even when they're far from home.

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