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Duty of Care for Corporate Travel

With employees constantly on the road pursuing business opportunities across the country, or around the globe, your company has a legal responsibility to monitor and ensure their safety while on the road. 

Sounds intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. Which is good news because a proper duty of care policy is essential for the success of your company.

What is a duty of care policy?

According to Collins Dictionary, duty of care is “the legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are in your care, using your services, or exposed to your activities”. When establishing employer’s duty of care at your company, keep in mind that this includes responsibility for:

  • Maintaining a safe physical working environment
  • Complying with industry standards and statutory safety regulations
  • Conducting a work-based risk assessment
  • Allowing employees to provide feedback and express concerns
  • Ensuring employees work a reasonable number of hours with sufficient breaks
  • Caring for employees’ mental health, protecting them from discrimination, bullying and harassment

A duty of care policy is a plan your organization has laid out with steps to ensure that each of these responsibilities are accounted for. Basically, they are set up to make sure your employees are safe and healthy. And that your company’s ass is covered. Remember: your organization is liable for any foreseeable incidents your employees fall victim to, even if they’re away from the office. And on top of all the legal obligations, as a manager you also have moral obligations to ensure your team’s safety and security.

How about some concrete examples: Does your company have a crisis management plan if there is a terrorist attack in a city your employees are visiting clients in? What about if a team member is involved in a car or plane accident during transit between work sites? How do you handle an employee that gets sick while on international travel? These are all rare situations, but they become critical when they arise.

Duty of care policies are tricky because they are not consistent across all businesses. Think about the risks associated with working in different industries. The risk management plan for a construction company will be vastly different from that of a tech start-up. However, there are three key components of any duty of care policy:

1. Prevention

What can you do to predict potential risks that your employees may face? And how can you prevent these problems before they even pop up? Once you figure out the concerns your team faces, establish preventative risk management measures to ensure employee safety.

2. Planning

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to prevent every risk. So, establishing a plan for worst case scenario is essential. Consider what risks you have no control over. For corporate travel these might include plane or car accidents, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. Grim, we know. But if your company has a policy and procedure for the most unfortunate, and uncontrollable, scenarios, your employees are more likely to return home safely.

3. Communication

Communication in duty of care policy is twofold. First, it’s important to make sure your employees understand your company’s risk management policy. This is important so that employees can follow the procedures you’ve spent time and energy planning, and so that they know you care for their health and safety.

Second, the ability to communicate with employees during an emergency is an essential aspect of your policy. Make sure whatever risk management plan you have in place allows for efficient, streamlined communication to all team members affected when reacting to an emergency.

Importance of duty of care in business travel management

Because of the nature of travel, corporate travelers may be at a higher risk of being affected by an emergency. When you ask your team members to travel to pursue business opportunities around the world, you expose them to the risks of travel. As we touched on earlier, there are several potential threats that come with traveling to an unknown place (accidents, unpredictable weather, dangerous transportation — you remember). And when employees are on the road for work, their safety and well-being should become your top priority.

Why is duty of care important for your business? Besides the moral obligation you have to your employees to prioritize their security, a duty of care policy can also impact the bottom line. What happens if one of your traveling employees gets stuck in a sticky situation and can’t follow through with their meetings? Business opportunities (and important revenue) slip through the cracks. What about if an employee falls ill during international travel and must take a medical leave? You’re stuck facing your competitors with one man down for the foreseeable future. So to be a good (business) person and manager, stay on top of preventing, planning for, and managing the threats your traveling employees face.

How can you ensure duty of care for your employees during business travel? Implementing a corporate travel management system that offers real time tracking of your team members’ locations is a great place to start. Knowing where your employees are and when is a crucial component of risk management. That way if/when a dangerous event occurs, your company can easily and quickly determine if any of your employees are in danger. What may sound like a nagging parent forcing their teenager to share locations on Find My Friends could actually make the difference between life and death for an at risk employee.

Duty of Care vs. Travel Risk Management

So how is this “duty of care” concept any different from travel risk management you’ve likely heard of before? It’s simple: duty of care is why your organization protects employees (for both legal and moral reasons) while travel risk management is what your company does to implement this protection.

Consider this through the corporate travel lense: travel managers are likely to have real-time tracking of their traveling employees’ destinations through a software program (travel risk management) in order to know immediately if their security is at risk during an emergency (duty of care).

How to develop a duty of care travel policy

Developing a duty of care travel policy is a big responsibility, but there are some simple steps you can take to figure out the best system for your organization. Before you do anything, make sure to consider the specific risks your employees face. Talk to them about it. Which parts of their day to day at work might be hazardous? Next, consider what current measures your company has in place in order to prevent these risks or to maintain safety if they occur. It is also important to define what duty of care means for your company. How much protection or aid are you willing/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 a risk management program, the policy is useless.

There are a few other boxes to check before you can implement an efficient and successful duty of care travel policy:

  • Accurate data only. Look over your employee data and make sure it is current across platforms. This includes employee contact information, employee travel schedules, and real-time tracking capability. Update and synch this information so that if an emergency occurs, your team can quickly contact those at risk.
  • Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Preparation is key to any effective policy. Think about all of the possible crisis situations your business travelers could find themselves in, and come up with an action plan for each of those.
  • Put technology to use. Take advantage of the tools available to you. News flash: technology is meant to make our lives easier. In order to fulfill your obligations as a manager, use technology that offers capabilities like real-time location tracking and multi-channel communication. Updated technology will be a critical resource for successful communication, especially when dealing with a crisis.
  • Talk back to your employees. No, we don’t mean get fresh with them. Maintain a steady stream of communication, especially with employees on the road, so that they a) know you’re committed to their wellbeing and security and b) know how to take advantage of the action plans you have set in place.

Now you’re prepared with the what, why, and how of duty of care policies. Go forth, and protect!

Interested in learning more? Check out our downloadable Duty of Care eBook. 

Download the eBook

How does your corporate travel policy stack up?

Posted by

Kathleen Burns
better corporate travel starts here.

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