The term "duty of care" is frequently used in conversations around employee business travel and global mobility. We find with clients and prospects that there is sometimes an idea that because they have travel or medical insurance, that they feel the duty of care element is fully addressed.
Our friend Stuart Birch from Griffin Birch Consultancy points out that employee risk management is much more than that, and includes:
* understanding and identifying the risks across the organization
* developing and implementing affirmative actions to minimize/mitigate the risks
* leveraging key services and installing quality processes to support those actions
* documenting and monitoring the program so that you can have confidence across the organization that the company and employees are prepared - to travel, for overseas assignments, for whatever it is they are doing outside of their home country - as it relates to medical, security and consular risks.
As organizations extend their operations globally, their risk profiles similarly expand. Particularly when emerging markets, employees and other stakeholders are exposed to a greater number and variety of risks. Companies need to really consider how to define duty of care and determine whether their goal is to simply put into place measures that protect itself legally or whether there is a greater mandate of going above and beyond to proactively protect employees. Duty of care ultimately must be defined by each company.
The conversation below is between Stuart and Eugene Wojciechowski (partner at legal firm Penningtons Manches) where the final question is:
Do you have any examples of surprising/shocking instances, that might be ok to share?
"An employee was seconded abroad without any training as to the cultural and religious differences which existed in the part of the world he was sent to. He asked a local married lady if she had any plans for the weekend, which she took the wrong way, and he ended up in jail for a week."
We might not be able to stop the scary things from happening, but we can certainly be better prepared for managing the risks!
I’ve not come across a ‘duty of care checklist’ as described which any of my clients have operated but I can imagine that this could be very useful for employers. When preparing such a checklist, a company could define for themselves what their duty of care is likely to be but they should get expert help with this, through perhaps instructing a lawyer specialising in this area and by speaking with insurers. Also, any checklist would need to be reviewed regularly to ensure it was complaint with any changes in the law. Employers should also remember that irrespective of how they define their duty of care, it is likely to be open to legal challenge by employees.