Meeting duty of care obligations when an employee travels abroad is much more than a box-ticking exercise – and it needs to start well before an assignment overseas.
Be prepared for every eventuality – and go well beyond pre-travel vaccinations. Just for a start, you need to think about the current health needs of your employee/s: for instance, do they rely on regular prescriptions or are they diabetic - and do accompanying family members suffer from any medical conditions? Also find out about the capabilities and limitations of local routine medical and dental care in situ. Will it meet your employee’s needs or will you have to provide access to extra support? And you’ll need to know about the prevalence of contagious diseases, rabid dogs, poisonous stings and unsafe drinking water, as well as the suitability and accessibility of emergency care. Above all, make sure your employee/s can take the right precautions and knows exactly what to do and who to contact in an emergency.
Find out if the political situation is stable and if conflict or terrorism is likely to strike in the future – and remember that things can change quickly. Is it safe for your employee to walk around alone at night or during the day, or is kidnapping and mugging prevalent? Do they know how to avoid unwelcome attention and cultural clashes? What about protecting themselves against credit card or mobile phone cloning or insecure Wi-Fi networks? It’s up to you to have the right processes in place to keep them safe and to make sure they know how to mitigate risk and react to security threats.
Get advice about the climate: is there a danger of excessive heat or cold? Are earthquakes, hurricanes or floods likely? Let your employee/s know the procedure if a natural disaster strikes. And educate them about heatstroke and other heat-related problems, or how best to cope in plunging temperatures.
4. Emergency assistance
How will you locate your employee/s if an emergency strikes? Could an evacuation be implemented quickly and what would it involve? How do you know that your emergency planning will work? Will your staff know exactly what to do? A matter of minutes can turn a minor incident into a catastrophe - but planning ahead with real-life scenarios can help to avert this.
Make sure your employee/s feel supported and prepared, not just for their destinations but also for their journeys. Many employers forget that travel itself can be hazardous, especially if it involves crossing high-risk countries. Anticipate the risks before a deployment overseas and put in place the appropriate safeguards, training and procedures. You won’t just be meeting duty of care obligations, you’ll also be investing in a safe and productive workforce.
This post was written by Jonathan Brown, Risk Team Manager at CEGA, the global risk, assistance and claims specialists. CEGA and Solace Global are exhibiting their integrated medical and security assistance service, INtrinsic, at the Business Travel Show in February. Travel bookers, buyers and managers can register for a free pass at www.businesstravelshow.com.