duty of care
Property Casualty

You’ve Been Assigned a Duty!

Joe Watts
Joe Watts
Property Casualty

Ever heard of “Duty of Care”? If you’re an owner or manager of any multinational business operation, my hope is the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!” But, if you’re not sure exactly what it is…let me explain it.

Duty of Care is a legal obligation imposed on an employer that requires adherence to a standard of reasonable care for operations that could foreseeably harm others. What’s that really mean? Well, to say it in simpler terms, it’s presumed that employers have a legal and moral obligation for the health, safety, and security of their employees…especially when they’re traveling on behalf of the employer.

While that seems obvious, employee health, safety, and security are actually often overlooked in business strategies. And with more than $1.1 trillion on business travel spent in 2016 alone, that’s a pricey risk to take.

Think about it for a moment. Employees who travel face risks and travel-related diseases that are prevalent in developing companies (for example: malaria, respiratory infections, and different skin conditions). Additionally, urgent healthcare needs can arise from events that seem minor in the U.S. On top of the medical aspect, political and cultural conflict continues to increase around the globe. These dynamics present security and logistical challenges. We’re now also witnessing natural disasters on an unprecedented scale. All of this to say that employees can easily be impacted while traveling.

Many countries have implemented and are enforcing Duty of Care statutes. The United Kingdom has the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2007, which criminalizes liability when a breach of Duty of Care results in the death of a person at a work site while traveling for work. The U.S., Germany, Australia, and Canada have similar Duty of Care statutes. See where I’m going with this? The good news is that in many cases, this enhanced liability can be covered by insurance.

That’s why it’s so important that, if you’re a multinational employer, you work with experts to develop and analyze travel protocol to ensure you’re fulfilling your Duty of Care to your employees. Here are some basic steps to start the process:

  • Develop corporate travel policies — Select a travel management company that can provide insight into hotels, airlines, and travel destinations. Selecting the right travel insurance program can help ensure resources and care are available to traveling employees.
  • Educate employees — Put tools in your employees’ hands, such as travel applications provided by security services and insurance companies. Also, ensure that U.S.-based employees traveling out of the U.S. enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This will ensure they received relevant information about countries traveled prior to and during trips.
  • Review travel exposures — Where are your employees going and why? What will they be doing there? Is it a necessary trip?
  • Know where your employees are — This is critical to the management of corporate travel and responding to Duty of Care. When events happen, you will want to know where your traveling employees are.

Holmes Murphy has been involved in situations where one of these points wasn’t followed. In fact, we have scenarios where none of the steps were followed. We want to work with you to ensure your employees and your company address each one of these to minimize travel-related issues and expenses.

Keep in mind, if you’re a business owner, you have a Duty of Care to your employees’ health, safety, and security especially when traveling for work. Knowing the foreseeable risks and planning for the unforeseen are possible with careful planning of a travel strategy. So, make it your “duty” to ensure you’re covered, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions!

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