I recently attended the ABTA Duty fo Care Conference in London at the beginning of October. It was a really interesting day and I got the opportunity to spend time with a real mix of delegates from travel managers, security companies and travel companies.
The conference started with an interesting statistic that 60% of travel managers are concerned that their company does not have an adequate travel risk strategy or process in place, which set the scene and really highlighted the scale of the challenge. During the day there were a lot of discussions and good insight into best practice on building robust traveller safety processes.
If your employees travel on business, you have a legal and moral obligation to consider their health, safety and well-being whether they’re in the UK or abroad.
Unfortunate events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis or health issues, combined with the increased threat of terrorism is making many businesses pay much more attention to how they look after their employees wherever they are in the world.
Companies have a duty of care to their employees and should take all possible steps to ensure their health, safety and well-being. While showing care for the physical and mental health of your employees can help improve staff retention, employee engagement and boost productivity, legally, employers must adhere to health & safety and employment law, in addition to the common law duty of care. They also have a moral obligation not to cause, or fail to prevent physical or psychological injury.
An employer may breach their duty of care by not doing everything reasonably
possible to keep the employee safe from harm.
Here, we have 4 questions your business needs to ask itself when you do not have a Travel Risk Strategy in place, or if you want to update your current strategy.
#1 Does your business travel to ‘unfamiliar or high risk’ areas?
So it's generally known that employees within the Oil, Gas and Energy sectors have long travelled to what others would call unfamiliar or higher risk destinations including areas such as oil rigs, which is why it pays to have a specialist Travel Management Company on board.
If your business requires employees to travel to destinations considered to be high risk, it’s important that you’ve specifically assessed these risks and taken precautions to protect your team. You need to be aware of what your high-risk destinations are, this can easily be established by researching the destinations you travel to and conducting risk assessments.
Destinations deemed to be “high risk” need to be identified and communicated through to your employees. Reviewing these assessments regularly can lessen the impact of any changes which may have occurred since your last one.
#2 Do you have a procedure in place providing appropriate destination information before travel?
Whilst the risks for travellers will differ according to the destination there are sufficient steps you can take in advance of travel. HERE, we have a handy Duty of Care checklist to ensure your travellers are well prepared in advance of a trip including tips such as checking the latest travel advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to making a note of the nearest British embassy or consulate in case of an emergency.
#3 Are your employees aware of procedures put into place in the event of any travel disruption, from airline strikes to terrorist attacks?
Communication is key to the success of any Travel Risk Strategy, make sure there is a system in place to keep travellers updated of any changes to travel advice or if an incident occurs that could affect them. Most good Travel Management Companies will provide travel or risk alerts to keep travellers up to date, but if you don’t use a TMC, make sure you have your own systems to capture and disseminate such information.
Alerts sent by business travel agencies keep you and your travellers up to date with information that may affect travel plans including the following:
o Impending strike action, in any country, by airlines, airports or ground transportation staff
o Changes in FCO travel advice
o Amendments to passport and visa requirements for specific countries
o Advice and implications of weather or major incident
In the absence of a Travel Management Company, it’s important that you keep your own business travel records so you can locate travellers when you need to. For example, if there is an incident, you’ll want to check if any of your travellers were in the area at the time.
#4 Does your company have a plan in place to maximise traveller well-being?
Supporting your travellers doesn't stop when they’ve landed back on home soil and it’s important they’re given the opportunity to tell someone what went well and what could have gone better on their trip.
This knowledge is invaluable as it will show if you need to take any further action to support your traveller’s well-being and it could also help other travellers in the future.
Ask yourself? If the traveller did require support while they were away, was it adequate, better than expected or poor and if so, why? Questions such as this one will fuel the continual improvement of your approach to traveller safety and also demonstrate that you take their well-being seriously. Use this information to update the risk matrix if required and be sure to communicate any updates to staff promptly.
With Traveller Well-being at the forefront of businesses minds, “Post Trip Duvet Days” are becoming increasingly popular. Post business trip “Duvet days” are similar to the “Bleisure Concept” (the art of tagging on some leisure time to end of business trips) but instead of adding extra travel time, the employee tags on an extra day of rest upon return.