Before Covid-19 Business Travel overseas was a staple diet of a companies client engagement and continuing to grow. It is too soon to predict when the pre-Covid levels may be reached again, but there will be an uplift as UK PLC re-opens and the desire for face-to-face contact is re-ignited.
For UK employers, organising for an employee to travel overseas on business is a process which should involve extremely careful planning. Under the terms of UK employment law, an employer, who requires an employee to travel overseas on company business, should be diligently analysing the precise responsibilities of that employee whilst abroad and assessing and mitigating any risks to their health and safety.
As Covid-19 continues to dominate global health situations, employers should also be seeking to reduce the worry that employees might experience, if needing to travel for work.
A thorough risk assessment is vital, with past case law highlighting that judgements will be made against employers who fail to assess risks adequately and so endanger the life, health and wellbeing of their employees overseas. Companies have been found liable in various types of case in which employees have been injured or killed abroad. Examples of employer negligence have included failing to advise employees about the risks of malaria1 and requiring employees to take unsafe modes of transport when visiting overseas sites in remote locations. The impacts, for a company which neglects to plan every element of their employee’s protection, can be profound.
Best practice should consist of doing everything reasonably practicable to safeguard the employee. Attention needs to be paid to security aware-ness training and actors including the overseas country’s climate, seasonal weather conditions, culture and customs, political stability, security issues, terrorism threat, crime level, social stability, Covid-19 situation, levels of hygiene – and even the type of electrical adapters or appliances required for compatibility.
Staying in touch with an employee abroad and ensuring they feel supported and part of the team is also vital and establishing which hours in which to do this, given time-zone differences, is also important. Not adding extra strain to the employee’s situation should be the goal, and ensuring that their mental health is supported, the objective at all times.
Considering all the elements of an employee’s safety and trying to support their medical care and wellbeing in the best possible way can be a challenge, which is why specific group personal accident and travel protection exists and can be provided to businesses seeking to extend their duty of care to workers abroad.
A group personal accident and travel plan is a holistic approach to employee wellbeing, suitable for businesses of all sizes and in any sector. Such cover typically utilises technology, such as online portals and Apps, to ensure the employee is assisted at all times, both before their trip and during it. It usually encompasses elements of awareness training, to prepare the employee for specific factors they will find within a country and fill in any knowledge gaps. At a practical level, it gives them the means to rebook flights, if necessary, access translation and Embassy support and replace a lost passport or stolen cash.
Most importantly, this type of plan also provides the level of high-grade medical insurance cover that is required, including rescue and repatriation, if necessary. Plans offer compensation and care, should any injury occur and step in to support loved ones, if an employee tragically dies overseas. If they are hospitalised, the cover often provides for a service to relay messages to friends and family, as well as providing counselling and support.
Furthermore, the policy should pay for other aspects associated with travel, such as cancellation of flights, trip curtailment and lost baggage.
With so much uncertainty across the globe at present, be that rooted in health, terrorism, crime or social and political situations, it is vital for businesses to keep a firm grip on their risk management and duty of care. There is no need to be caught out and suffer reputational damage, by letting your employees down, when having first-rate group personal accident and travel insurance cover in place is so easy to do.
Having such protection for employees, as part of their support package, can also enable a business to attract and retain the best talent, in what may be a small skills pool.
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