Duty of Care: Employers’ Obligation Towards Traveling Employees

By | 2018-08-07T02:48:53+00:00 July 8th, 2018|Research and Statistics|

In today’s digital world, traveling for business has become a norm for anyone accustomed to the nature of doing business. Whether you’re booking a flight to your next trip or overseeing the travel planning process for your team, heading to the check-in line for an out-of-state meeting is just part of the corporate game. Yet, with the notion of safety making its way to being one of the top—if not the top priority for business travelers—today’s employers are increasingly on edge when it comes to fulfilling their obligations pertaining to travel risk management for their traveling employees.

In fact, during a live audience poll of travel managers at a recent ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) conference, “Risk Management” was the runaway leader (67%) in why companies worry about the lost visibility and control that comes with booking on consumer travel sites.

duty of care business travelers

For corporate managers, understanding the notion of duty of care in the context of corporate travel is essential for ensuring compliance and establishing a sufficient business travel safety policy for company employees. So, before sending them off to their next corporate adventure with a carry-on bag in hand, set aside the time necessary to comprehend the big picture around duty of care and what it means for employers.

duty of care business travelers

What exactly is Duty of Care?

Whereas travel risk management is considered by Business Travel News (BTN) the “course of action” which companies take in order to provide safety measures for business travelers—duty of care is their legal obligation to do so. In other words, according to a 2018 Lockton report, employers have “the moral and legal responsibility and obligation for the health, safety, and security of their employees, especially those traveling on behalf of the employer,” domestically and across continents. It essentially touches upon certain actions that corporate managers choose to make or not make in the context of their business travel safety policy.

As a business manager, ensuring the safety and overall well-being of your employees that travel should be the first on your list of priorities when implementing a sufficient and sustainable duty of care travel policy. Apparently, according to Wex Travel Payments Insights (Wex), a “legal brief on travelweekly.com” claims that “the US, unlike other countries, lacks federal or state regulations” when it comes to protecting their employees that travel. Despite the fact that the laws pertaining to duty of care in the U.S. are lacking, business managers must still abide by their legal obligation when it comes to caring for their employees.

With the number of unforeseen risks entailed in business travel, taking the time to incorporate a safety policy is pertinent to the overall functionality of your business in the long run.

duty of care corporate traveler

Understanding obligations pertaining to safety and security

We know, with the ever-changing and evolving dynamic of travel in the workforce, staying up to date about your obligations as an employer is easily placed on the back-burner. Though, as easy as it is to set it aside and convince ourselves that it will be addressed at a later point, or when something tragic happens—now, more than ever is the time to face the responsibility.

Take a moment to understand the ever-growing necessity for employers to implement a duty of care travel safety policy and what you can do to ensure compliance.

Workers’ compensation

According to BTN 2018, “workers compensation insurance generally covers a company’s responsibility” and limited liability towards U.S. employees who get injured or become ill on the job. For U.S. employers, it presents a great safe haven against any claims they may receive with this insurance in place. Yet, for U.S. employees, workers’ compensation provides a sense of protection and assurance knowing that their employers are responsible in the event that unfortunate circumstances arise throughout their corporate travel.

Though, as great an offer as workers’ compensation is on all ends of the spectrum, it still does not cover the broader scope of responsibilities that employers have towards their business travelers. Stephen Barth, a “University of Houston law professor and founder of the Hospitality Lawyer media and information platform” is referenced in the same BTN report explaining that “once an employee gets a certain distance from where the business is located—and that distance varies from state to state—workers compensation no longer provides coverage.”

With this in mind, there is a growing need for legal and moral ramifications that employers must abide by when implementing a duty of care travel policy that caters to a broader scope of circumstances.

duty of care business traveler

Determining and evaluating the risk factors

In every job, there are a number of risks that employees have to face. Business travelers especially seem to come across these threats more frequently than not. A 2016 IPSOS Survey of 1,119 people who “organise, influence, or are responsible for” their company’s “travel and risk mitigation policies,” states that almost “three quarters (72%) of participants surveyed towards the end of 2016 feel that risks to business travellers have increased.”

That being said, although a Buying Business Travel (BBT) 2018 article referenced a “survey of 2,000 business travellers around the world by Carlson Wagonlit Travel” showing that “Americans are the most happy to compromise safety for [hotel loyalty] rewards at 39 per cent…,” the majority of business travelers in the U.S. claim they “worry about the possibility of an intruder during their stay.”

business traveler safety

Source for infographic: hospitalitynet via Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Though these types of occurrences are highly unlikely, even the mere thought of them happening causes stress and anxiety amongst business travelers. According to a 2017 article in The New York Times, the rise in global terrorism has significantly instilled fear to even the “most hardened travelers” during this unsettling era. A recent Travel Agent Central report indicates in reference to research done by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), that 50% of global business travelers are “most worried about subways and train stations” than airports.

duty of care ground transportation

Source for infographic: Travel Agent Central via Carlson Wagonlit Travel

With these stats in mind, the time has come for employers to take into consideration the risk factors entailed in business travel. Once managers start evaluating the chances of something going wrong in business travel, they can start planning wisely on ways to execute duty of care and corporate travel obligations.

From a minimal duty of care program consisting of making sure that employees send corporate managers their travel itineraries to a more comprehensive one that includes using a duty of care provider (ISOS, Ijet, TMC, and the like) who use mobile GPS tracking to create geo-fences to keep travelers from wandering into danger zones—there is a wide spectrum on the matter that is important for business managers to consider in order to understand their moral and legal obligations towards their employees. Understanding this wide spectrum and being transparent about it are only some of the ways that business managers can ensure efficient compliance.

What are the risks and threats that business travelers face?

JTB USA Business Travel claims that there are roughly five different categories that they fall under.

1. Health and Overall Wellness

We’ve all been there at one point or another—gotten sick on the job, found ourselves in the E.R. due to infection, a minor stroke, or even as a result of ongoing stress and fatigue. Alright, we might have gone a bit overboard with the outcomes, but the scale of extremity in regards to the health of business travelers can truly vary depending on the circumstances. These types of medical incidents present only some of the many that traveling employees succumb to and have to deal with on the job.

2.  Automotive and Aircraft Collisions

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, “over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year” in the U.S., and road crashes are the “single greatest annual cause of death of healthy U.S. citizens traveling abroad.” We know—accidents happen, and it is unfortunate when they do, but implementing an effective business travel safety policy can help alleviate any claims against the company all while showing employees the support they deserve. Before you think you’re doomed for disaster, check out these flight safety stats and learn how flying is the safest form of travel in comparison to others.

3. Inevitable Profiling

Whether they’re wearing a buttoned-up shirt from Nordstrom, carrying a briefcase or a tech-savvy piece of luggage, let’s face it—business travelers have a tendency to stand out from the crowd. This apparent reality is especially the case when traveling overseas, making them an open target for “abuse, kidnapping and other threats.”

4. Natural Disasters

 When mother nature weeps, she roars. From hurricanes, “tsunamis, blizzards, thunderstorms, tornadoes and other natural disasters,” business travelers in different parts of the world are faced with the risk of experiencing the unfortunate consequences of natural disasters. These threats vary depending on where you travel, but it is highly important to stay up to date with the forecast of your next destination and implement the necessary precautions.

5. Inability to Adapt to the Local Destination

 It happens all too often—you reach your destination and are unfamiliar with the ways of the local environment. Whether navigating through unknown roads or dealing with the foreign medical systems in a language that is unlike the norm, this inability to accordingly adapt to the local destination also poses threats and risks of its own.

Where the risks and consequences are the greatest

According to Wex, a “Travel Leaders Group Survey of US-based travel agency owners, managers, and frontline agent specialists have been involved in a ‘Duty of Care’ situation involving a business traveler.” Yet, in reference to this survey, they list that the “top 5 circumstances where clients required assistance were… airline emergencies, civil unrest in international countries, snowstorms, terrorist incident” and hurricanes or natural disasters. In addition to these most common circumstances, another factor to consider is that there is a large number of women that have faced a serious incident while traveling. A Buying Business Travel article on female business travelers facing a higher risk than their male counterparts, claims that most women stated that their main concerns were to “travel to certain countries or cities, sexual harassment, and assault or kidnapping,” when referencing a survey done by “US corporate travel buyers” that was carried out by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

When discussing lodging for their female travelers, 63 percent claimed that they believed that the “location of hotels is a concern for women,” and 54 percent stated that the “type of lodging should also be considered.” Although all of these points are evident, only “less than half (44 percent) reported that their companies recommend female-friendly lodging.” These are all essential risk factors to consider when establishing a duty of care travel policy for your employees and are only among the few that are taken into consideration.

Stephen Barth, from the BTN 2017 report, also emphasizes that there are a number of misconceptions that revolve around the risks outlined above. From “‘pedestrian accidents, car accidents, incidents on subways and buses,’” Barth claims that ignoring risk management undermines the other “everyday risks that can be just as deadly. 

duty of care airport terminal

Duty of care enters the picture

As the socio-political arena becomes continuously compromising, there is an increasingly high demand and a necessity for companies to get organized when it comes to their duty of care travel policy. In this day and age, employers must be prepared to “respond to any incident at any time” in order to “protect a company’s reputation and employee morale,” as stated in the 2018 Lockton report on protecting employees in the context of business travel.

What it all means for employers

If there’s one main challenge that business managers face in the context of duty of care in corporate travel, it’s their sense of accountability towards their employees. According to a 2015 Travel Manager Survey by Phocuswright, only “47 percent of travel managers identified policy compliance as a top priority,” while “39 percent were concerned with managing traveler safety and upholding duty of care.”

Whether you’re a business manager looking to implement a new duty of care travel policy for your company or are simply wondering what you can do to give it the extra boost it needs, read below for tips on how to take it all to the next level.

Efficient Planning 

Wondering what you can do to uphold your duty of care responsibility in corporate travel? Help manage and mitigate risks with new technology! Wex claims that companies have officially resorted to “updating their travel policies and implementing new technology to help monitor their employees’ locations and communicate with them in case of an emergency.” Prior to going on a hunt for the latest travel risk management technology, employers would be better prepared to make those kinds of decisions by first assessing the extent to which their employees are exposed to risk.

Christopherson Business Travel president Mike Cameron is cited in a 2017 BTN report stating that a “company whose employees travel mostly domestically might determine there is minimal benefit to implementing a sophisticated travel risk management program” and may very well be better off opting instead to self-insure. These are all crucial elements to address when formulating a duty of care travel policy.

Employee engagement

 When it comes to establishing a duty of care travel policy, transparency and guidance are the name of the game. Making duty of care a part of the company culture is the first step towards ensuring legal compliance. This in-depth business travel safety policy is essential to corporate travel and even more so to employee engagement, as employees are expected to follow the policy.

In most cases, business travelers have no idea what their business travel safety policy entails. It is highly essential for employers to be transparent with their business travelers as to what their safety policy entails. If your workers are happy, your business is happy. Engaging and effectively implementing a duty of care travel policy ultimately leads to an overall positive experience for your employees—thereby increasing company loyalty and ultimately, employees’ performance towards fulfilling its objectives.

Focusing on the moral vs the legal

 When it comes to their traveling employees, employers typically focus more on the legal ramifications pertaining to duty of care as opposed to the moral obligation. It is interesting to note that when “companies concentrate on the moral part, however, their actions tend to answer the legal questions, as well” (BTN, 2017). Those companies that are more proactive in their duty of care endeavors are the once that are focused on their moral obligation and “‘view it as an ethical corporate responsibility” (BTN, 2017).

These are only some of the many best practices that employers can take when addressing the notion of duty of care in corporate travel.

duty of care london airport

How Shep plays a role in risk management

 If you’re looking for an employee-centric booking tool that also covers risk management in corporate travel, Shep is your solution. This all-in-one platform collaborates with companies and provides them with data reporting, traveler expense tracking, and reports travel purchases so that you know what flights your team will be on and at which hotels they will be staying on every step of the way.

A study released by Expedia Affiliate Network titled “How TMCs are keeping up with the corporate traveler” found that 68% of business travelers book half or more of their travel outside approved tools. This ultimately diminishes the effectiveness of a duty of care program as it causes companies and corporate security to lose visibility of their people. Without knowing where your employees are or where they are going, you can’t prepare or support them.

By allowing travelers to book on consumer sites, Shep provides a critical component for policy compliance and duty of care that current corporate booking tools are missing. This gives travelers the freedom and convenience they want while simultaneously ensuring employers are able to manage risk and provide support for their travelers.

Concluding Remarks

If you thought that your duty of care travel policy obligations extends only to the confines of your employees, think again. Whether you’re a Millennial changing the nature of business travel, or a corporate manager formulating a business travel safety policy, you’d be surprised to discover that these obligations also cater to the “spouses and children of employees, as well as to board members, consultants, and contractors” (Lockton, 2018).

So, the next time you find yourself having to plan a business trip for your employees, be transparent about your duty of care travel policy and let your employees [and their loved ones] know you care!