International trade opportunities abound and despite technology that enables workers across the globe to connect remotely, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact. International business travel increased roughly 25% between 2013 and 2018, and an Oxford Economics study found every dollar U.S. companies invested in business travel during the recent recession returned $12.50 in revenue and $3.80 in profits.
But with the political unrest in Venezuela, crime on the rise in Mexico and Asia, and growing numbers of disturbances in relatively safe Europe countries, companies may need to revisit the programs they have in place to protect the health and security of employees traveling on their behalf – especially those on extended assignment overseas.
So, how do you balance the need for employees to travel internationally with your moral and legal “duty of care” to keep them protected? Here are my four primary focus points:
- Assess Travel Exposures – Gather information on all destinations to which employees travel. Unique risks and exposures for long-term assignees will naturally require special consideration compared to the needs of short-term travelers.
- Create Travel Policies – Develop strategies to address your travel exposures. Selecting travel management companies, airlines, hotels and ground transportation, as well as ensuring good communication are all part of a corporate travel policy. Implementing the right kind of insurance policies is also critical:
- Don’t forget health insurance! Differences in healthcare systems, processes and cultures, combined with ever-changing requirements for business travelers entering various countries, make global health insurance a complex area.
- Additionally, typical U.S. health plans do not provide for emergency and medical evacuation, which could be interpreted as failure to meet duty of care obligations in the case of a catastrophic event.
- Prepare Employees for Travel – Educate employees about the company’s travel policies and provide pre-trip information; e.g. customs, cultural norms, political risks, medical care standards, local emergency numbers and global assistance resources. The more info the better.
- Know Where Employees Are and Communicate – In a natural disaster or political unrest situation, mobile phone and email may not be available. The ability to communicate with traveling employees in real time during a crisis is essential to managing the company’s risk.
It is possible to successfully navigate the global balancing act. We can assist you with essential planning to develop and implement a successful duty of care program.