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An introduction to duty of care in business travel

An introduction to duty of care in business travel

The Navan Team

7 Mar 2024
4 minute read
A company's duty of care to employees keeps a traveller safe on a trip.

If your employees travel for business, your company has an obligation to protect their safety and wellbeing. To fulfil this duty of care, companies must assess the risks their employees may be exposed to in different locations and mitigate them as much as possible.

What is employer duty of care?

Organisations are ethically and legally required to ensure the safety of their employees in response to any dangers they might encounter, including health and safety, violence, discrimination, and stress. This applies whether an employee goes to a meeting at a client’s office across the city or a team offsite halfway around the world.

Duty of care at work is particularly important when organisations grow or expand into new markets, or the number of employees travelling for work increases. Although the risks are often small, companies must still evaluate different issues employees might face in each market. For example, there is a higher chance of social unrest or natural disasters in some countries.

Having identified each potential risk, employers must develop a response plan to every possible scenario as part of a wider duty of care policy.

Why is it important?

Implementing an effective duty of care programme is essential for creating a culture of security and trust so that employees feel safe when travelling for work.

The rise of remote work, offsite meetings, and globally distributed teams means more risk assessments are needed, as employees who didn’t used to travel with work now find themselves on the road more frequently, and laws and legal obligations vary by location.

Employers must prioritise their duty of care by creating a comprehensive policy that uses technology and human touchpoints to ensure employees are supported while on a trip.

How to develop a robust duty of care policy

Developing a comprehensive policy involves investing time and money in planning, implementing, and communicating best practices.

Your company policy should be created with input from teams across the business, including HR, travel managers, cybersecurity experts, and risk managers.

It’s vital to incorporate technology so your employees and managers can access real-time information on relevant events developing around the world. Technology can be used to display real-time event warnings in your travel platform, recommend safeguards, and establish a standard of care to ensure your company is on top of any live developments wherever employees may be.

Once your policy is ready, it’s essential to communicate it clearly and effectively to employees through informative materials that explain the policy, show examples of duty of care in action, and include proactive guidelines for extraordinary circumstances.

A good way to make sure employees are well informed is to create a mandatory training programme for them to complete.

Duty of care best practices

International SOS produced a global benchmarking study that allows companies around the world to compare duty of care policies and identify best practices for ensuring the safety of employees. The study produced a list of 10 best practices:

  • Increase awareness
  • Plan with key stakeholders
  • Expand policies and procedures
  • Conduct due diligence
  • Communicate, educate, and train
  • Assess risk before every employee trip
  • Track travelling employees at all times
  • Implement an employee emergency response system
  • Implement additional management controls
  • Ensure vendors are aligned

Although organisations are aware of their duty of care responsibilities and the fact they go far beyond unexpected natural or manmade disasters, there are still opportunities for companies to build more robust policies.

How Navan approaches duty of care at work

Navan takes a proactive approach to looking after its travelling employees. Here are some of the principles Navan built into its duty of care strategy:

  • Communicate clearly. Make sure employees can easily access pertinent information from anywhere. This helps minimise risk and ensures everyone around the business is aware of the necessary guidelines. 
  • Use technology. The Navan dashboard, powered by AI and machine learning, gives managers and teams the real-time data they need to take care of employees and respond quickly if the need arises.
  • Be proactive. Think about what could go wrong in all situations and from all perspectives. Run exercises and practice drills so you can be prepared if similar circumstances occur in real life. 
  • Be accessible. Ensure employees can access information 24/7/365 through multiple avenues. Choose support tools that are available around the clock in case of emergency.
  • Be personal. Prioritise personal outreach for when something goes wrong. This puts employees at ease and ensures they feel well cared for.

While we are proponents of augmenting duty of care and risk management strategies with machine learning and safety software, proactive face-to-face conversations and live crisis communications make all the difference when caring for employees.

By going above and beyond your company’s legal obligations in creating, communicating, and implementing the duty of care policy, your employees will feel empowered and supported while on the road.

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