Business travel - man waiting at airport alone

In our ever-growing global economy, travelling for business is now commonplace in many organisations. According to research conducted at the turn of 2016 by the Collinson Group, 54% of Human Resources (HR) professionals anticipate that sending employees abroad will become more complicated from a Duty of Care perspective over the next 12 months.

The risks posed to travelling employees are far from hypothetical. The research conducted by the Collinson Group also discovered that 41% of companies have had to respond to an accident while an employee was travelling and 39% have had to assist an employee because they had fallen ill in their country of travel.

Following the European Court of Justice ruling in September that time taken to travel to and from work for non-office based employees will now be considered ‘working time’, it’s also pertinent to consider the safety of employees while they travel to and from work appointments in the UK. Bear in mind that there were 1,780 UK road deaths in the year ending September 2015.

What is your duty of care?

There are several laws which hold the employer responsible for protecting the safety of everyone in their employment, particularly the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

In the event that an employee is threatened, attacked or injured while travelling, legal procedures could cost the business in fines, resources and time. In some cases, the employer could also face prosecution and imprisonment if they’re found to be at fault, particularly following the new sentencing guidelines which came into force in February.

What policies should you have in place to meet your Duty of Care, and how can you accurately monitor the safety of your business travellers?

It’s imperative that you detail clear travel policies and procedures within your organisation. This usually falls to the security team, although responsibility here can sit with HR where there’s no security role in the business.

You must ensure that you know where an employee is going and when, their method of travel, purpose of travel, whom they’re meeting and what they will be doing during the trip.

You will also need to consider if there are any potential risks individual to their destination that they could face and how you can prepare and protect them.

Risk assessment

As well as ensuring you have all the information above to hand, a formal risk assessment should be conducted if an employee is required to travel to a high risk destination and advice and formal training given to employees.

It may be necessary to provide a security escort in some destinations, and even delay or cancel travel following the assessment.

You can conduct these assessments in-house, use online risk assessment tools or outsource the process completely if you prefer.

Plan how you will respond to the event of an employee needing assistance while they are travelling, whether that’s due to an accident, illness or threatening situation. Who’s responsible for responding in the event of an emergency, and what support will be provided after an incident?

While researching for this blog I saw an interesting quote: “The travelling employee is a stakeholder in – and a customer of – responsible travel management”. I think this is a really key point. For you to effectively meet your Duty of Care, you need to fully engage your employees in the process and their role in its deployment. Ensure that employees know how they’re expected to deal with certain situations, for example knowing travel insurance details, out of hours numbers for their employer or, if a monitoring solution is provided, how and when to use it.

Once all procedures, assessments and tools have been put in place, employees still have a responsibility for their own safety and must be mindful of their surroundings and actions.

Lone worker monitoring

Knowing exactly where employees are and their safety status is a key part of ensuring you are meeting your Duty of Care. There are a number of apps and solutions available that enable you to accurately monitor your employees’ exact locations and let them check-in to let you know they are safe.

The most advanced solutions on the market continue to work abroad by automatically switching to the local network so it’s worth considering this if you have employees travelling outside of the country as you will still be able to monitor their safety in the same way as if they were in the UK.

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