Duty of Care for Business Travellers
Duty of care, which we've touched upon in previous articles Tips for Travel Managers and Business Travel Safety Tips but will go into in more depth in this article has been a legal responsibility of companies since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which came into force on 6 April 2008.
Many companies realise that they have a duty of care within the workplace but are unaware that their duty of care extends to outside the workplace, ensuring their staff are safe while travelling for business purposes. Although much of what you read about when researching duty of care talks about travelling abroad it's very important to note that duty of care applies to local and domestic travel as well as foreign travel.
What is Duty of Care?
Beyond a moral responsibility to keep employees out of harm's way, businesses have a legal obligation to ensure their safety and security while: working within a company, attending a company event, posted on international assignments, working in remote areas and travelling on company business. This obligation applies both to acts and omissions.
Nasar Farooq of Croner Consulting explains "As long as your employees are at work and you have a contract of employment, you're responsible for their welfare no matter where they are. This includes ensuring their welfare on business travel and at company events."
A company's duty of care is wide-ranging, everything from protecting its staff from disease outbreaks to severe weather conditions (tsunamis, hurricanes and more) to simply ensuring their safety and knowing where they are, when they are travelling and throughout their business trip.
Taking Responsibility for Employees Welfare
It's interesting to note that recent research has shown that 16% of small business owners do not know where their employees are staying when they are on business trips.
If businesses do not have control over their staff's travel they could be at risk of prosecution under health and safety legislation, if there are any health and safety issues.
As with all areas of Health and Safety management, safeguarding staff while travelling on business relies on planning and appropriate risk assessments. According to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) the best starting point is to build a risk assessment for each individual who will be travelling.
The IOSH has been quoted as saying "As well as general travel-related elements, [a risk profile] should include specific personal circumstances that could affect their health and safety, such as disabilities or medical conditions. Many business travel risks can be mitigated by proper advanced planning."
If the idea of preparing individual plans seems daunting, as a starting point, businesses can pull together information across countries and across likely risks and present them to be used (as appropriate) depending on the destination and personal circumstances of the staff member travelling.
Duty of Care Implementation
When you start to implement an effective duty of care policy, there are some things you should think about:
Determine Travel Risk
Rebecca Hackworth of the International SOS group commented that "there is no such thing as a 'safe' country. Incidents can happen in any location, but there are ways to mitigate risk. These can vary greatly within a country."
Even when travelling within the UK or Europe there are associated risks e.g. the vulnerability that arises from travelling to an area you are unfamiliar with; becoming tired while travelling which could potentially mean you are less aware of your surroundings; driving fatigue which could result in accidents (exacerbated when driving in an unknown area); becoming ill or opportunistic crime.
The first step is to determine likely travel risks. As highlighted above this will depend on when and where your employees are travelling and will require a "current" knowledge of each destination. Travelling abroad carries extra risks and it's important that an awareness of current events, political unrest, potential problem areas or the likelihood for natural disaster is fully understood.
Set Out Your Travel Policy
Once you are aware of the risks you can then set out your travel policy which can play a key role in duty of care.
By having a travel policy in place you can define the process that staff should follow each and every time they are required to travel for work purposes. By choosing to work with a travel management company and defining what is allowed or not allowed in terms of hotels, airlines, and other transport can go a long way to mitigating potential health, safety and security risks.
Help Staff Understand Why Following the Company Travel Policy is Important
In a previous article we talked about tips for travel managers and how to keep control of your travel. One of the issues many travel managers find is that staff don't understand why they should conform to travel policy rules which they often see as "bureaucracy" which is stopping them from finding cheaper deals or going to their favourite hotel.
In order to avoid this it's essential that you take the time to explain to staff why a travel policy is important. It isn't just about finding and booking the best or favourite hotel, it's about "Duty of Care", i.e. being able to provide key information about their business trip, knowing where staff are at all times, especially during a crisis situation to help diminish risks and keep staff safe.
Interestingly, some companies are starting to look at implementing 'duty of loyalty' into their travel programs where they reward staff for following travel policy and for taking responsibility for "travelling safely".
Contact Booking Partners if you are looking for a partner to help implement your travel policy as part of your corporate Duty of Care.