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Duty Of Care: Are You Meeting The Standard?

1 April 2017

Duty Of Care: Are You Meeting The Standard?

Ex-diplomat and co-founder of Consularcare, John Morgan, looks at the British Standards Institution (BSI) PAS 3001:2016 and shares his expert knowledge on how organisations can protect their globally mobilised workforce.

Business travel remains an important part of corporate strategy. In a changing world, where the threats to travellers have significantly increased, the pool of solutions to protect against those risks has deepened, making it more confusing and difficult for organisations to be confident that they are protecting their staff working and living abroad.

Taking adequate steps is key when we are talking about Duty of Care. If we get it wrong we may find the company threatened with litigation including charges of corporate manslaughter.

Many companies outsource their workforce’s business travel to travel management companies, but don’t always fully understand what services they have, or their limitations. When it comes to Duty of Care, it is imperative that employers do understand.

The BSI just made it a whole lot easier

In September 2016, the British Standards Institution (BSI) published PAS 3001:2016. Commissioned by the medical and travel security services company, International SOS, the code of practice provides global organisations with a standardisation document that describes best practices to manage risks and provide Duty of Care to their employees who are working abroad. Covering health, safety and security, employers will be able to safeguard their staff working and living in foreign locations.

"Your first thought, in light of recent events, may be terrorism, but actually, the biggest threat to the safety of your employees travelling abroad are road traffic accidents and street crime."

From minor incidents such as medical issues or being a victim of petty crime, to the threats of natural disasters, terrorism and pandemics, the risks faced by business travellers and those living and working abroad vary considerably. Until now, there has been limited support and guidance for organisations to put procedures in place that will not only safeguard staff, but also provide better business continuity management.

Where to start?

Depending on the size and structure of an organisation, it is a good idea to have a multi-disciplinary approach to Duty of Care, assigning responsibility to a senior manager who will oversee the development and implementation of policies and procedures. That may well be a security director, HR manager or BCM manager. Those responsible for health and safety, risk management, travel, insurance, legal compliance and global mobilisation should also be included in the team.

Before they go...

The destination will make a difference to the level of pre-travel preparation required. Identifying potential threats and hazards, and considering any training that may be required will aid the risk assessment process, and contribute to prevention strategies. Your first thought, in light of recent events, may be terrorism, but actually, the biggest threat to the safety of your employees travelling abroad are road traffic accidents and street crime. That’s not to say that kidnap, extortion, civil disorder and violence should be overlooked as genuine concerns.

Your employees need to be prepared for all risks, and by equipping them with the skills to cope with and, where possible, avoid problems you are well on the way to meeting your Duty of Care. Advanced Driver courses, First Aid courses, Kidnap Avoidance and Country Briefings before employees leave are all good practice, and may in fact save lives.

And if things go wrong?

An employer can only do so much to protect their staff, even if the employee follows all the advice they are given. If they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, they could still find themselves in need of assistance. When your staff are thousands of miles away, who are you going to go to for help? Your first thought may be the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the local consulate; but when consular assistance is purely discretionary, you need to have a better strategy. A small company is unlikely to have the dedicated incident management team that a large corporation will, but they should still have contingency plans in place, and adequate cover to provide the relevant assistance to their employee. That may be medical, security or consular assistance (or, better still, a combination of all three).

Travel insurance is a must, but check what it covers, as Duty of Care goes way beyond fiscal losses, and many policies aren’t as comprehensive as you might imagine.

It is really worth it?

If you want to avoid the expense of interruptions to business activities, and reduce your chances of criminal liability and a damaged corporate reputation, not to mention reaping the rewards that an employer who is seen to look after its staff gains, then yes, it is certainly worth the effort.

"Advanced Driver courses, First Aid courses, Kidnap Avoidance and Country Briefings before employees leave are all good practice, and may in fact save lives."

Written By:

John Morgan is Managing Director and co-founder of Consularcare, the first and only company to provide dedicated consular assistance across the world.

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