What are Employers’ Responsibilities to Employees Traveling on their Behalf?
So, you have a worker who travels abroad frequently on your company’s behalf. What are your obligations to them while working abroad and how can you protect them in case of emergency?
Even there are no specific regulations dictating this issue, there are certain moral and legal responsibilities you have as an employer.
Let’s check them out!
Major Business Travel Risks and Threats
There are many risk categories your employees may face while traveling for business. These include, for example, automotive and aircraft collisions. The Association for Safe International Road Travel emphasizes that road accidents are the greatest annual cause of death of Americans traveling abroad. According to IPSOS, there are also substantial risks of epidemic diseases, terrorism, and natural disasters.
Many employees also have security concerns, especially when it comes to hotel safety. The recent Carlson Wagonlit Travel survey reveals that 75% of business travelers keep their doors locked during their stay, while over 50% of them are worried about potential intrusions. They’re also concerned about using subways, train stations, as well as ridesharing and taxi services.
The survey conducted by the Global Business Travel Association claims that it’s also important to pay attention to the safety of female business travelers. According to them, women face a greater risk of kidnapping and sexual harassment and assault.
Build a Solid Business Travel Policy
Your business travel policy needs to be comprehensive and detailed. It is a document that dictates each aspect of planning a business trip.
Create a step-by-step guide to planning the business trip.
This is where you should decide where and how the flights should be booked, state what medical information your employees need to provide, and explain any other key requirements.
Pay special attention to your employees’ safety.
Ask travelers to give you their itineraries so you can know where they are. Do they need to call someone from your offices to confirm they’re safe? Who should they call when they need help? Should they inform you about the hotel they’re staying?
Have a defined protocol in case of emergency situations like terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Make sure there’s an arranged place where your employees can stay in such situations. Who should they contact in case of emergency? Do you have your employees’ contact details? Are their families’ contact details up to date?
Make a list of different expense categories.
Include costs you’ll reimburse employees for, including the list of vendors they should book, advance book requirements, client entertainment expenses, etc.
You should also state what expenses you won’t reimburse, such as airline seat upgrades, dry-cleaning, pet boarding, etc.
Finally, explain the process of expense reporting. Determine how fast an employee will be reimbursed. Define the expected due date for an employee to submit the expense report. Identify expense categories that will need pre-approval. It’s always a good idea to ask for proof of payment to prevent business expense frauds that cost U.S. companies over $2.8 billion yearly.
A bleisure policy as a part of your travel policy
There is a good reason why many businesses are adopting bleisure travel. This is a hybrid word for “business” and “leisure” and its meaning is logical – employees now combine their business and private trips.
However, to get the most out of this practice, you need to include it in your business travel policy. Here are a few things to consider:
Employees cover all costs related to their private time off, including meals, accommodation, transportation, etc. An employer pays for those expenses that are associated with their business. Also, all costs during a weekend stay are covered by an employee, unless they’re made for business purposes.
What aspects of the bleisure trip are covered by corporate travel insurance? Make sure your employees have arranged a personal travel policy for their personal time off. Also, they should secure the insurance for the person they’re taking with them. For example, if they’re taking a parent, have they invested in travel insurance for seniors? Remember, any incident may harm your business reputation, so be strict when it comes to your employees’ safety.
Bleisure travel expenses reporting can also be tricky. What happens if your employee’s friend makes additional expenses and put charges on the corporate card? Inform your employees about what their rights and obligations are and what repercussions for not following these rules are.
At what point does the business time end and leisure trip begins? Your policy should clearly define what leisure is in this case.
A Duty of Care: How it Applies to Business Travel
Employers have both moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees, especially those that are traveling on their behalf. This is the broadest meaning of the “duty of care” term. Here is how it applies to your business travel employees.
Prioritize an employee’s health.
As an employer, you need to ensure that your staff members are fit to travel overseas. As different countries require different vaccinations, make sure your employees visit a GP that will tell them whether they need any additional immunization.
Most importantly, before traveling to a foreign country, an employee needs to be aware of all health risks this trip brings, such as infectious diseases. This way, they will be able to prepare for the trip better and ensure they get all necessary vaccinations and medications.
Employees should also know what to do in case of health emergency situations. Provide them with the numbers of local emergency services and familiarize them with the steps they should take.
Provide the right business travel insurance.
When unpredicted situations occur, you need to ensure your employees stay safe. This is where travel insurance steps in.
Now, here are the most common types of business travel insurance policies you should invest in:
Trip cancellation plan covers your pre-paid expenses when a trip is canceled for a covered reason.
Emergency evacuation – the expenses of emergency medical evacuation (medevac) will be covered.
Baggage coverage – if an employee’s luggage has been stolen, damaged, or lost, baggage coverage will cover these expenses.
Medical and dental coverage – covers the expenses of medical treatments.
Travel delay coverage – when a flight is delayed for a covered reason, this plan will cover the costs of hotel, dining, transportation, etc.
Travel accident focuses on providing accidental death and dismemberment and term life protection for a traveler’s family in case of death.
Kidnap and ransom travel plans for corporate employees. If your employees frequently travel to kidnap-prone regions, then this is an effective way to protect them and your company from major financial losses.
Annual plans are perfect for frequent business travelers, as they include a plentitude of coverages within one comprehensive plan that covers an employee for an entire year.
As an employer sending workers to international business trips, you need to adopt an employee-centric approach. Assess and mitigate the major travel risks your staff may face, build a highly transparent business travel policy, and ensure your employees are prepared and fit for the trip.