As the world of corporate travel continues to adapt to a new model of business shaped by COVID-19, the principles of Duty of Care have remained consistent: Companies still have a legal need to limit liability and a moral obligation to provide a reasonable standard of care to their employees, including their road warriors.
However, while the principles remain unchanged, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that many businesses lack a comprehensive Duty of Care (DOC) platform. In order to be effective, your DOC solution must go beyond written policy and offer risk management tactics and communication tools that allow you to respond to an evolving situation. Here are four key ways DOC should work in lockstep with your travel program.
1. Provide a consistent standard of care to all employees
Before the pandemic, most travel program DOC policies focused exclusively on the traveler. According to Direct Travel’s Chief Technology Officer, Darryl Hoover, this has its roots in a traditional mindset that seeks to mitigate location-based travel risks, such as a terrorist incident or natural disaster. In those scenarios, only the employees traveling in the affected areas would be provided with the relevant information and DOC procedures.
COVID-19 has shown that this strategy can be effective only up to a certain point. With an outbreak of infectious disease, the corporate traveler is just one point of entry from a risk perspective. A “non-traveling” employee vacationing in an area that experiences a disease outbreak poses the same level of threat as an employee traveling for business to a known hot spot. One solution includes incorporating a managed leisure program underneath your corporate travel umbrella to provide a line of sight into employee travel. We’ve explored this topic more in depth as part of an earlier blog post on the future of health management and employee safety, which you can access here.
2. Locate and communicate with employees on the road
The ability of your organization to respond to threats and alert your employees is only as good as the quality of your data. At the onset of the pandemic, some businesses struggled to pinpoint their employees’ locations and navigate border closures in time, leaving travelers stranded. Unlike traditional location-based threats, an incident happening on an international scale like COVID-19 does not provide companies with the necessary time or capacity to individually track down each employee through manual systems of communication. Instead, your DOC platform should provide an automated way to provide a global view of all employees and instantly communicate with them.
3. Keep employees informed of developing situations
Your DOC solution and risk management strategy should also extend beyond reactive measures. Until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, experts predict reoccurring outbreaks of varying levels. A business with a proactive strategy anticipates such emerging threats and keeps employees informed of growing and waning risks. Use your DOC platform to provide your employees with up-to-date information on a regular basis. For those returning to the road, utilize trip briefs to provide destination intelligence and appropriately set traveler expectations.
4. Offer accountability beyond the corporate sphere
The principles of Duty of Care apply not only to a business’s obligation to its employees, but also to society as a whole. As Hoover points out, the COVID-19 pandemic further showed how interconnected the world has become thanks in part to travel. Without a DOC solution integrated into your travel program, this moral imperative (and corporate liability) becomes more challenging to uphold.
For example, if an employee tests positive for an infectious disease after staying with a preferred hotel supplier or using a car rental service, what obligation does the company have to notify partners who may have been exposed? Employers also have to consider how they should use expense management tools to track possible sites of exposure created by the employee, such as restaurants they may have visited during their trip. These types of situations contain layered nuances of responsibility and become even more difficult to tackle accordingly if your organization already lacks a robust DOC platform.
Your Travel Management Company can help you address those questions and ensure your Duty of Care solution meet the needs of the moment and anticipates future challenges. Contact us to schedule a complimentary demo of Direct Travel’s intelligence risk management platform, Direct Duty of Care.