What you need to do to keep your staff safe when they travel
It’s quite surprising the number of organisations that don’t have a full travel risk management plan and a crisis response plan. Both are important components in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff when they are on the road.
Whilst catastrophic events, such as a terrorist incident, natural disaster or an outbreak of Ebola may grab the headlines, it’s the high-frequency and low-impact events, such as a traffic incident or stomach upset from contaminated food, that are most likely to affect staff when travelling. This is why both ends of the frequency-impact spectrum should be considered when employers look at duty of care for their travellers.
Of course, emergencies do happen and knowing where your team are at any one time is essential if there is a local or transnational incident where immediate follow-up is needed to establish if staff in the area are safe. Appropriate actions can then be taken swiftly to aid those affected. In the more likely event of a minor incident, further stress and delays can be reduced by employers ensuring their travellers know where to seek help, using expertise from their TMC, insurer or travel risk management provider.
Putting together an effective travel policy
The first step is to think about the risks impacting your particular business and industry sector, and what your organisation’s risk tolerance level is – for example, an aid organisation is likely to have a high travel risk tolerance because they are sending workers into warzones or places where there may be civil unrest, famine and disease. The risks these workers face are likely to be very different from a banking organisation sending staff to Singapore, New York, London and Sydney.
Encouraging your staff to book travel via your preferred TMC
Whilst the benefits of protecting staff safety and wellbeing are clear, employers need to be proactive and even repetitive in communicating what the travel risk policy is to staff so that they are aware of the protocols in place and why they are there. This should encourage traveller compliance and hopefully reduce off-channel bookings via travel websites that do not collate and report on flight times, location of hotels and itineraries, rendering employers ‘in the dark’ and less able to respond promptly if an incident occurs. Primarily, engagement should be sought by communicating with staff about travel risk management and what systems are in place to protect their safety and wellbeing when they are travelling for work. Employees feel supported by companies who invest in their health and wellbeing. Ensuring that the travel policy can be easily accessed, easily understood by staff and that bookings can be made easily through the preferred TMC will also help ensure compliance and avoid bookings via other platforms.
In cases where a traveller has booked their travel via other means, employers should enquire as to why and seek feedback – is it a perception of cost differential or are there delays getting through to the travel management company’s consultants which need to be addressed?
Ultimately, there has to be reasonable follow-up with non-compliant travellers, which should be tangible and some organisations use gamification as part of that. There’s nothing more incentivising than a leadership table of strong performers within your organisation showing loyalty to the travel policy, where percentages of bookings made off-channel or without pre-trip approvals, are made known. There is an element of competitive spirit about this approach which may appeal to your staff.
From travel risk policy to testing crisis response
Once a travel risk policy is in place, organisations should consider how they will respond to a variety of critical incidents and then test these response plans. A crisis response plan needs to be pro-actively and robustly tested on a regular basis to ensure that it is fit for purpose – companies need to answer questions such as ‘how do we work with our chosen travel management company when an incident occurs?’ and ‘how do we ensure there is 24 hour coverage in our organisation?’ If something happens in the middle of the night in your organisation’s time zone with a traveller who is in another part of the world – how are you going to respond to that?
Consideration also needs to be given to the pros and cons of using smartphones as our world becomes more mobile. A travel-risk platform and its technology should be linked up to staffs’ mobile phones for ease and accessibility on the go, enabling travellers to report their exact location, rather than leaving their employer to rely solely on itinerary data. However, there are also challenges with mobile safety reporting in that mobile networks can quickly go down if a major incident occurs, so this should not be seen as a catch-all solution on its own.
Something to think about
Ultimately, the legal duty of care for staff whilst they are working, whether they are on site or on the road, lies with their employer. Whilst implementing a robust and dynamic travel-risk policy may seem daunting, travel management companies like FCM Travel Solutions and risk providers like iJET International are on-hand to offer support and guidance to ensure successful implementation of this policy. Similarly, when the worst happens, a well-constructed crisis response plan with the buy-in of all necessary stakeholders, that has been rehearsed, tested and socialised will go a long way to ensure that an organisation is doing all it can to reasonably keep their travellers safe.