Rethinking duty of care
While the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 might have focused boardroom attention firmly on duty of care, are we really tackling it in the right way?
In a business travel context, duty of care extends from high-risk events such as terrorist events, to smaller-scale problems such as delayed flights or train travel, through to traveller wellbeing. It is the wellbeing element of managing risk that often gets overlooked, but it is an important part of the overall piece.
Where Does Responsibility Lie?
Duty of care is everyone’s responsibility – it touches HR, occupational health, security, risk management, senior management, and the travel department. However, you do need to define the RACI model (who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) within your business.
Where Are We Now?
When it comes to risk management, it is important to understand the risks associated with the individual regions, areas, cities and countries to which your employees travel. Your Travel Management Company can help you review the destinations you travel to and the risks of each.
It is also important to understand what you would do in the event of a major incident. Is your contact information up-to-date? Are your policies and tools robust enough? How fast can you communicate with anyone at risk?
In terms of wellness, you need to analyse the affect your travel policies are currently having. How do the physiological wellbeing levels compare for travellers and non-travelling employees? What are you doing to minimise the effects of business travel for your employees?
What Do We Need to Do?
Having audited your current business travel operations, you should have a good idea of where policies and procedures need to be beefed up.
Communication is key.
First, employers need to ensure that employees are fully appraised of the risks in the areas to which they are travelling. Pre-departure briefings about risks, policies and procedures should be implemented. If you are branching out into new markets, your TMC will be able to assist with risk assessments.
Second, you need to ensure you have effective monitoring of travellers and workers abroad.
Again, communication is key.
Your Travel Management Company (TMC) should have tools for undertaking effective monitoring on your behalf – as well as proactive risk identification and notification tools and procedures.
Technology will also play an important role: from traveller tracking, posting travel updates and notifications, or timely communication in the event of an emergency – again, your TMC will be able to offer advice and solutions for this.
You’ll also need to establish a risk response procedure, in conjunction with your TMC. Clearly define whose responsibility it is to contact travellers in the event of a high-risk event. Will your TMC make the call? What automated systems can they provide? How you’re your emergency response be escalated? How will your TMC work to get your employees out of a crisis situation? If you have people travelling regularly to high-risk situations, does this need to be augmented with other risk management services?
High-risk events do happen infrequently, and it is important to have agreed strategies, tools and procedures in place. However, all too often this can be the focus of duty of care plans to the detriment of thinking about or fulfilling day-to-day duty of care.
In part, this is because wellbeing is a difficult aspect to manage or make the case for – its costs and effects don’t show up in your travel budget.
Yet saving a few pennies on a cheaper hotel, a longer transfer, or expecting employees to drive themselves after an eight-hour flight can create a greater cost in the long term.
This is where your initial audit pays off: by comparing the sickness claims and days off, you can directly see the impact of your wellbeing policies and track their payback for the business. Of course, you will need to keep monitoring these metrics in conjunction with your other travel reports.
Begin with a survey of your business travellers – what do they identify as current and possible ways to relieve the stress of travel?
How can you implement these changes in a way that balances other pressures? Policies need to go further than choosing the airline that gives its aromatherapy goodies to its first-class passengers – especially if your travel costs policies require travellers to choose an economy product.
Aligning the dual needs of cost and wellness can be the most difficult balancing act – and might require a more radical rethink of travel policy. How do you define when travel is necessary? What does the approval process look like? Are wellness considerations a part of that? Can you cut back on the number of trips that take place? Can you redirect funds to ensure your duty of care extends right through to wellness?
Ultimately, this might be the best way to ensure that those trips that do take place are enjoyable and business enhancing rather than a source of risk or stress – either to the employee or the business.
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