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Integrating duty of care seamlessly into your travel programme

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Business Travel iQ recently hosted an expert webinar on integrating duty of care into travel programmes. Having assisted many companies with their travel risk programmes and managed many global incidents, our Group Managing Director, Matthew Judge, was asked to share his wealth of experience and knowledge on this critical topic. He joined an expert panel, mediated by Mark Frary, to discuss the area in more detail.

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In this article, we highlight just some of the questions raised in the webinar including what duty of care actually means; what processes and policies both SMEs and large corporates need to employ; and how technology can help.

Setting the scene

In our global economy it’s necessary for employees to travel across the globe to fulfil business critical tasks on behalf of their employer. Locations can vary in terms of risk but as a responsible employer, you need assume a duty of care for all employees who are travelling on your company’s behalf and ensure they are well looked after.

Duty of care is not something that should be bolted onto a travel programme in order to tick a box. It is something that should be fully integrated into every travel programme and will benefit both the employer and the employee. 

Mark: What does duty of care really mean in practice?

Matthew: Firstly, duty of care is a complex term. Duty of care is a legal obligation and is governed under different legislations in different countries around the world. Duty of care is also multifaceted and covers several elements of travel management:  travel risk sector approval, travel planning, crisis management and employee wellbeing. Travel risk management as a term reflects the implementation of the policies, processes and controls that you put in place across your organisation to ensure that you satisfy your legal obligations.

Duty of care is a critical part of business planning and the repercussions of getting it wrong can be huge; there have been cases of employers being taken to court with convictions being obtained through various different legislation: health and safety, gross negligence and even the Fatal Accidents Act.   

Duty of care can also have different meanings in different countries depending on local legislation. The challenge is how to apply those legal obligations or controls across your organisation and implement them into policies and processes within your travel risk management programmes. 

Mark: What should you do first?

Matthew: All too often, companies are triggered to start their duty of care planning after an incident has occurred, potentially a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. Companies may have found themselves unable to deal with the incident and it’s at this point that they realise they need to start looking at risk management practices and their governance and getting more support.

When companies first start adding risk planning into their travel management plans they really need to take a step back and understand whether they fully understand their risks as an organisation. They need to understand the destinations in which they are operating or travelling to. They also need to understand the type of work that they are performing. They need to understand the way they are going to handle risk pre-trip: how do they understand whether the people they are sending on these business trips are fit and healthy or whether they are exposing them to any undue health incidents. Will employees travelling to certain destinations be exposed to risks of some sort because of their individual profile: their sexual orientation, colour of their skin, religious background for instance?

The best place to start is to gather the relevant stakeholders together and really start to plan out what you believe your risks are and formulate those into a risk register. Once you’ve got that you can then sit and work out how you are going to manage that risk. Will you treat the risk somehow, will you transfer the risk off to insurers, in other words offsetting it, or will you just tolerate it because the chances of the event actually happening are very, very  low and if it does happen there will be not much impact to the individual or the organisation overall?

There’s some great guidance out there which you can use to try and understand those risks. Start by taking a look at the standards laid out by ISO: ISO 31,000, ISO 45,001 and the BS 65,000

Once you have considered all the above, then those responsible for risk should start applying the relevant tools through policy and processes to manage the incidents and events that could occur in different scenarios. 

Mark: Do you need a risk manager as well as a travel manager?

Matthew: Once you start to work through the relevant policies and processes you may need to consider whether you need a risk manager as well as a travel manager.  The answer to this question does depend on the size of your organisation, how many employees you have and how many of those employees you have are travelling.  The important thing to keep front of mind is that somebody needs to have the ultimate responsibility for risk. For organisations without their own in-house risk function, the responsibility tends to fall under the remit of the travel manager or the HR manager. Whatever their role, the person responsible needs to be given the right tools and training for them to be able manage the risk effectively. 

Mark: How do you go about making an assessment of the risks your travellers take?

Matthew: Typically organisations without their own dedicated in-house risk team would have an outsourced partner (such as Anvil) providing them with overall awareness of the incidents occurring around the world that could impact them, their travellers and their wider business operations. This provider should also be able to help companies monitor where all their travellers are and provide the tools and technologies to be able to communicate with those individuals as and when an incident occurs or is likely to occur.

If you are an SME adding travel planning to your processes, and you’re not yet working with an outsourced partner, it’s wise to use available knowledge to bolster your research. Using information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a good place to start. We also recommend working with your insurers to understand what countries and activities they are able to support.  

Mark: How can technology be used to help at all stages of the process?

Matthew: Another area to consider is how technology can help automate processes to enable companies to be able to respond quicker so that decisions can be made quicker and impact can be reduced. Anvil’s Riskmatics solution, for instance, is designed to join all of those elements together. We link everything through technology: training for travellers, health screening, emerging threats. Our technology automates it from end to end and makes the process very efficient.  Our product has direct feeds from TMCs via the Global Distribution systems and then we cross correlate all of the associated risk. We can provide advisories to the traveller and to the relevant people in the organisation and can also trigger live and dynamic alerts. Our technology can also help with business continuity plans – arming companies with the information they need to understand how to prepare for and deal with major incidents that could potentially impact their organisation. 

Mark: For those relatively new to risk, what are the key areas to consider?

Matthew: If you are new to risk then your first tasks are to create a risk register, develop appropriate policies and processes and then think holistically about your business practices: pre trip - active trip - post trip.  It may seem a complex area but expert advice is available. If you are unsure about any element of risk then just ask. 

With so much to cover, this article has merely touched on some of the issues raised in the recent webinar. If you want to know more, you can access the webinar in full here, on demand, courtesy of Business Travel iQ.