Your guide to duty of care for business travel
When it comes to business travel, understanding duty of care is more important than ever. Read the employer’s guide to duty of care.
Business travel provides opportunities to connect with teammates, gain fresh perspectives and network face-to-face with clients. But, despite all its benefits, business travel also comes with unique risks for employees and organisations. As part of their overall duty of care obligations, small businesses and large corporations alike must take reasonable measures to keep employees safe and support them while they travel.
So what exactly is ‘duty of care’? What are the challenges of duty of care for business travellers? And how can you fulfil your duty of care obligations when your employees go abroad?
Take a deep dive into our duty of care guide and find out what it means for your business.
Duty of care defines the responsibility of a company to protect its employees and prevent harm to a reasonable degree. In legal matters, duty of care is a standard that courts use to determine liability.
Duty of care can include:
In practice, duty of care can include a range of aspects depending on context and situation. Duty of care also can vary depending on which country you’re in, so be sure to consult with a local legal expert to get the most accurate definition for you.
While duty of care is a legal standard, it’s also important from a moral and ethical point of view. A robust corporate duty of care programme can benefit employees’ mental health, making them feel supported by their employers and improving their productivity on work trips.
Failing to fulfil your duty of care can result in legal consequences such as lawsuits and extra costs for your business. You owe your employees duty of care every day, whether that’s preventing workplace accidents or providing relevant safety education. But the importance of duty of care is especially relevant to the unique challenges of business travel. Business travellers could face natural disasters, violence, illness or other crises while abroad – and businesses have a responsibility to help navigate these uncertain situations.
In short: creating a duty of care programme for business travellers now can save money, stress, and possibly even lives in the future
Your day-to-day office or workplace is a relatively safe, controlled environment. But business travel introduces risks and unknowns that make corporate duty of care more important than ever. Every company’s duty of care is different depending on industry, business trip destinations and more. That’s why it’s vital to create a policy or programme for business travellers before anyone packs their suitcases.
Travel policies tend to cover topics such as:
Your travel policy is an ideal place to address duty of care obligations and champion employee health and safety while abroad. You may already have a travel policy or programme that covers aspects of your duty of care obligations, but if not then be sure to add it in and keep it updated. Even established companies can benefit from re-assessing their travel policies and creating a dedicated duty of care programme.
Collaboration between different areas of your organisation is the key to a strong corporate duty of care programme, and both employers and employees have a role to play.
Exactly who owns your duty of care programme will depend on the size of your organisation. Bigger companies may have a person or team dedicated to health and safety, while small to medium-sized businesses will likely need HR to own their programmes.
Regardless of the size or organisational structure of your business, duty of care is ultimately everyone’s responsibility. Creating a duty of care programme for business travellers is useless if it isn’t prioritised by managers and effectively communicated to employees.
To create and enforce your duty of care programme, the people who should be involved are:
Building a culture of safety requires input from employees at every level. While organisations are responsible for their duty of care programmes, employees also have a role to play. Before travelling for work, employees should educate themselves on their company’s travel policies, safety programmes and any relevant information for their trip. Employees are also responsible for following the policy before, during, and after their trips.
This means that you need to encourage your employees to follow business travel compliance.
Whether you call it a duty of care programme, duty of care policy or travel safety policy, every organisation should have a dedicated plan for their business travellers. You need to know all the worst case scenarios to be prepared.
Business travellers may run into a range of situations, including:
There are plenty of approaches to creating your strategy, but here are three steps to get you started.
Before you can institute a duty of care programme, you need to understand business travel at your organisation. You can begin by assessing business travel risks in general and on a trip-by-trip basis.
In general, ask yourself:
Before each individual trip, ask:
Answering these questions will help you determine where the risks lie for your business. You can use them as a starting point for discussing travel safety at your organisation and to begin planning a travel policy that incorporates duty of care.
Keep in mind that different business travellers face different risks. For example, some destinations may be more unsafe for women or LGBTQ+ travellers or certain diseases may impact people differently (e.g. the Zika virus is asymptomatic for many people, but dangerous if you’re pregnant). Consult your team and include different points of view to ensure your risk assessment is looking at the full picture.
Once you’ve completed your risk assessment, it’s time to build your strategy. Every company’s duty of care programme will vary depending on the risks you’re responding to. But there are some unifying principles to keep in mind.
After you’ve assessed the risks your business travellers face and crafted a robust strategy to protect and support employees, you still have work to do. Fulfilling your duty of care obligation is an ongoing project. Organisations are responsible for communicating travel policies and educating employees about travel safety.
Alongside ongoing education, build in timely touchpoints to refresh business travellers on travel safety topics. Make policies visible when employees plan their trips, provide resources for them to reference while they travel and ask them to reflect and provide feedback when they return from their business trips.
By clearly communicating with employees, you can make sure that your travel policies are effective and fulfil your duty of care.
Understanding your duty of care can be complicated, and the unpredictable nature of business travel only makes it more complex. When you do it right, duty of care is more than an abstract legal term; it’s about keeping your team safe, healthy and supported. With thorough risk assessment, robust planning, and ongoing communication, you and your team can be prepared for anything.
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The following guide will serve as your complete step-by-step manual to travel policies.