The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reports that spending on global business travel is growing and is expected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2020. Despite increasing global uncertainty around unforeseen events, organizations show no signs of slowing down business travel. Therefore, the duty of care and travel risk management programs need to be at the forefront of your organization’s security conversations, as outlined in a report produced by the Business Travel News (BTN) group.
Your organization most likely has some level of a duty-of-care solution in place; however, even organizations with a good track record in providing safety and security measurements still have some gaps in providing the right level of duty of care to their travelers and employees – and gaps that may be perceived by the organization as small could be viewed as negligent.
Risks for travelers and employees are on the rise
With the continual increase in business travel – global crises that are hitting the headlines are grabbing the attention of travel decision makers at organizations. The potential risks your travelers could encounter, domestically and internationally, are numerous – including geopolitical, health-related, and environmentally-related incidents. Even historically low-risk areas are reporting catastrophic events that are adding to the growing concerns for traveling employees.
Not only do organizations need to be prepared to fulfill duty-of-care obligations in high-profile incidents; they need to consider the smaller, more common travel risks that can happen when commuting into the office, including pedestrian accidents, car accidents, and incidents on public transportation.
“The broader notion of traveler well-being and duty of care issues are not only linked to emergencies and medical incidents,” notes GBTA’s Corporate Social Responsibility Toolkit. “The stress of business travel caused by delays, lost baggage, less productivity (yet consistently high workload), or the simple fact of being away from friends and family should not be underestimated.”
Travel risk management programs need to incorporate all your employees’ (not just travelers’) safety and security and be prepared to assist with the range of risks and incidents possible.
An ethical responsibility, not just a legal one
Legal obligations concerning insurance, lawsuits, and costs are what typically drive most organizations to implement duty-of-care initiatives. However, the moral obligation to your travelers and employees needs to be a driving factor as well.
“When companies concentrate on the moral part, their actions tend to answer the legal questions as well,” explains Stephen Barth, University of Houston law professor and founder of the Hospitality Lawyer media and information platform. “The companies that we see take the more proactive approach are the ones that don’t view it as a legal obligation, but view it as an ethical corporate responsibility.”
In the U.S., workers’ compensation reaches only so far, covering those who get injured on the job, and within a certain distance of their workplace. However, with growth and expansion increasingly taking business across borders – where an organization’s duty of care responsibilities begin and end are unclear when sending employees abroad.
In recent years, numerous countries around the world have started implementing legal statutes that side with the employee when there is a gross breach of duty-of-care responsibilities resulting in the death of an employee.
A recent traveler survey demonstrates that safety and security is one of the fastest-growing topics of concern for employees traveling on behalf of their organizations. Proactively incorporating an ethical responsibility in your duty-of-care program assists in addressing the increase in employee anxiety about medical and security disruptions while traveling.
Mitigating business risks while protecting your greatest asset: People
A single duty-of-care incident can result in staggering costs to an organization including medical expenses, sick pay, employment litigation, morale and productivity loss, and employee fall out – as well as damage to the organization’s reputation.
To help mitigate liability risks while fulfilling the moral obligation to your employees’ safety and security, industry experts suggest:
- Consistent travel risk management policy and procedures encompassing all employees
- Proactive safety training
- Clear monitoring and communication channels
- Multi-channel data management for tracking and response coordination
- Legal and executive management cooperation
- Incident response reporting and measurement for ongoing improvement
Organizations cannot afford to be negligent with the safety and security of their travelers and employees in today’s global landscape. It’s imperative to implement a travel risk management program or re-evaluate your existing program to determine that you’ll be able to monitor, locate, and communicate to all employees and fulfill your duty-of-care obligation if a crisis arises.