In 1902, Joseph Conrad published his novel Heart of Darkness, describing what was quite possibly the scariest business trip of all time. In the 19th century, companies sent business travelers west with little more than a wagon and a gun. French voyageurs from the 17th century got a canoe and a gun. And in the 14th century, Marco Polo got a camel.
Today, companies are required to take more responsibility for traveling employees, and that responsibility is defined by the legal term duty of care. Meeting duty of care “watchfulness” obligations means providing for the reasonable care of employees in the field by accounting for potential dangers such as criminal acts, natural disasters, political unrest, and medical emergencies.
Organizations must account for duty of care as part of their corporate travel management practices to prevent potentially putting employees’ welfare at risk – and opening themselves up to liability if a traveler is hurt. Allowing avoidable harm to come to a traveling employee doesn’t just impact that individual; it sends a negative message to all employees and, potentially, even to the public.
These five steps can help you to deliver better duty of care as part of your corporate travel management practices:
Determine if your travel policy can answer these critical questions:
- Does your travel policy offer traveler safety steps?
- Does your travel policy include steps to take in response to medical emergencies, natural disasters, or evacuation?
Stay current on travel conditions and risks.
We live in a rapidly changing world; fortunately news travels almost as fast as the world changes and can be found if you know where to look. Twitter and Facebook offer instant updates for travelers who need to get information quickly. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs issues travel alerts and travel warnings regarding risky regions. Determine how your organization will first monitor, and then respond to, risk-related travel information.
Clarify roles and who has authority to make travel related decisions.
Make it clear who in your organization will be responsible for, making decisions about locales that are off-limits, tracking trouble spots, and following protocols to contact travelers who may be at risk. Ensure that everyone in your organization knows who has authority to make risk-related travel decisions. All traveling employees should be trained on how to respond to danger and know what they should expect from your organization in case of emergencies.
Make smart—and safe—use of technology.
New travel services, such as ride-hailing apps, can offer great flexibility for your organization and traveling employees. If your policy allows ride-hailing be sure that the apps are paired with trusted chauffeured transportation companies. Integrating a B2B-focused car service app with your company’s travel management system means you never have to worry about your employees’ well-being on the road. Convenience is good. Convenience and safety are better.
Know where all of your traveling employees are and make it easy for them to communicate.
Be aware that U.S. cell phones may or may not work overseas depending on the phone’s technology (GSM, CDMA, TDMA), cellular carrier, and foreign locale. Make sure your employees know where embassies are located in every country on their itinerary so that they can get access to a landline and exit strategy during an emergency. For protection of both the employee and the organization, the company — not just the department — should know where employees are and how they can be reached. Consider mobile apps that can help keep track of employees’ itineraries. It’s not Big Brother. It’s Big Protection.
Sending travelers into the field comes with great responsibility. When duty of care is a solid value underpinning your corporate travel management practice, you can maximize the benefits of business travel while minimizing liability for the organization and risk for traveling employees.
Take these first five steps toward achieving better duty of care for your employees and you’ll be able to affectively deal with and potentially avoid business travel nightmares.
Looking to learn more about how you can protect your employees’ well-being at home and abroad? Get in touch with us to find out how our products are helping companies do just that.