As a business leader, you’ve probably spent countless hours on the road – and know a thing or two about keeping yourself safe while out of the office.

But do you know what to do if an employee is involved in a crisis while out of the office? And what your responsibilities are for your employees?

Regardless of your organisation’s size, it’s typically a legal requirement for businesses to protect the welfare and safety of their employees, which includes making business travel as safe as possible.

Start at base level – understand the specific risks involved in a business trip

Before employees go on any business trip, consider what will be involved and the potential risks. IOSH guidance on health and safety when travelling for work includes, amongst others, analysing the following risks:

  • Political, medial and security risks
  • Cultural awareness and specific cultural observations
  • Personal safety and security

As well, don’t forget domestic travel. The risks might be different to an international trip, but they still exist and still need to be managed as part of your safety responsibilities.

Preparing your employee for a safe business trip

Before any business trip, help to prepare your employees and keep them safe by asking:

  • What notice does your employee need before travelling and will they have sufficient time to get any necessary vaccinations?
  • What risks are likely to be present at the destination and does the business need to take any additional precautions to protect the employee’s safety?
  • Is the employee willing to travel if there are inherent risks?
  • What will the company response be if they refuse to travel (and how might it relate to their contractual terms)?

Additionally, ensure they have adequate travel insurance cover for the most common risks. The small print of your travel insurance could have profound implications for business travellers if something goes wrong.

Educate employees on business etiquette and local laws

As a frequent flier, you’ll know that business etiquette in other countries can be very different. A specific hand gesture, inappropriate joke or use of a particular phrase can damage business relationships. But it can also put travelling employees at risk.

Before employees head on a business trip, issue guidance on expected behaviours in that region, including dress code, gestures, religious customs and business styles. Employees who travel for your business will need to abide by both their contractual requirements, but also the destination’s laws and culture.

Those that flaunt these rules may put themselves at risk of causing offence or breaking the law; they can also make the business liable, due to the fact their employer remains responsible for their safety while away.

By educating and informing employees about taking unnecessary risks, you may limit some of your company’s liability if they choose to ignore advice and guidance.

Checklist for supporting employees when they’re out of the office

Before any employee travels, here are the essential details to share with them to help keep them safe and fulfil your responsibilities:

  • Country entry requirements – If needed, ensure details of transfers and accommodation are available in an easily-accessible format for the travelling employee.
  • Detail country-specific risk – Check your government advice about country-specific risk before travel and inform employees of any changes that they need to know about
  • Emergency contract procedures – Share emergency contact details, so employees know what to do if they have an emergency.
  • Basic destination-specific travel requirements – Share destination specific information, such as the type of transport available, local driving rules and the location of emergency services.