The global and interconnected nature of businesses’ operations and supply-chains mean staff frequently travel internationally on business, often to areas of political, social and economic instability. While such travel is essential for strategic growth, the risks to employees can be considerable and it is important that businesses demonstrate a robust duty of care.
Threats to Employees
Many parts of the world have weak governance and protection cannot be guaranteed against cyber attack, violent crime, malicious extortion, civil disorder, kidnap, terrorism, injury and pandemic disease.
For example, less developed countries may have poor medical infrastructure which can exacerbate certain threats such as the recent Ebola outbreak. Additionally, staff may be at risk when visiting areas of relative affluence within cities of fragile states as these can become terrorist targets or popular locations for riots.
While riots and terrorist attacks can be extremely high in severity, thankfully they are relatively low in frequency. In contrast, the most common threats to staff include road traffic accidents and street crime. Opportunist criminals, attracted to those who may look lost or under the influence of alcohol, may snatch bags, mug pedestrians or spike drinks with the intent to rob or sexually assault victims.
Your Duty of Care
Businesses have a corporate duty of care and a legal requirement to properly prepare their employees for travel and support them during and after their trips. If this is not robustly demonstrated or carried out then the consequences for individual employees and the company as a whole can be severe, resulting in legal proceedings and possible reputational damage which ultimately impact profits.
Risk Mitigation Strategies
In order to demonstrate a robust duty of care to staff as they travel on business and work abroad, companies should ensure that appropriate risk mitigation strategies are in place. This may include:
Company Travel Policy
Clear and simple policies and procedures should enable a company to know where their employees are going, what they are doing and how they can be best prepared and protected during such activities. A company travel policy should ensure the highest possible degree of safety and security for employees when travelling overseas and that all business related travel to risk-rated countries is subject to a formal risk assessment.
Considerations Prior to Travel
A risk assessment process informs an organisation as to whether more robust training or support is required for business travellers prior to deployment. An up-to-date country travel risk tool can assist with this as it allows a business to risk assess trips in line with its risk appetite and also to monitor situations as they unfold, keeping the business informed in the event that decisions need to be made about its staff in particular locations.
It is vital that the company travel policy outlines what employees should do in the event of an incident, for example, who to call and how to behave. Employee responses to incidents need to be in line with the company’s corporate crisis management plan which is, in turn, informed to some extent by the insurance policies that are in place.
To find out more about employers’ duty of care when employees travel on business, read our latest risk insight: Travel and Security – Employers’ Duty of Care. A retail-specific version is also available.