How well do you know your duty of care policies? How well do your travelers? If 2020 has taught us anything, one of the top lessons learned has been to have a risk management and duty of care policy in place. Duty of care is ‘a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others’ and is one of the most important things you can do for your employees. It provides confidence that you have their back while traveling and gives you confidence that your traveler knows what to do if an issue or emergency arises.
At the start of COVID-19, Humentum revisited our duty of care policies. It was the ideal time as our employees or associates/consultants were not traveling. We had just completed our RFP process a few months prior and selected a new travel management company. See my previous blog on this topic.
We began the process by developing a duty of care policy for our associates/consultants and then creating a separate policy for staff. Our priorities included:
- Ensuring all travelers had a clear and consistent understanding of our policies and procedures,
- Promoting the traveler’s health and safety, and
- Providing a reasonable level of comfort and service while maximizing cost-effectiveness.
While the following outline may provide you with a starting point, these only represent some of the areas we considered while writing our duty of care policy.
Risk – Awareness of travel-associated risks is crucial. Do you have a decision-making process in place to decide if a trip will go ahead? This should be done both when an event or project is confirmed, and again prior to travel. Who is involved in the decision-making? Equitable criteria used to make these decisions is a key step in the process too. Documentation of a ‘go/no-go’ decision should always be completed to ensure transparency.
Crisis management – Do you have a plan in place in case an emergency occurs? It’s vital to identify potential risks ahead of time, such as terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies. Ensure you have a process in place to support your traveler and a system to alert key leadership and staff members. At Humentum, we developed a Crisis Management Team (CMT) designated to carry out necessary actions to respond to emergencies. Additionally, at the site of the crisis or emergency, an Incident Management Team (IMT) will also be created to work in collaboration with the CMT.
Check-list – Does your traveler know which vaccines are required to enter a country or whether a visa or visa letter is needed? Many countries are at different stages of reopening due to the pandemic and have varying entry requirements that can change week by week. Will your traveler need a negative PCR test or a digital vaccine passport? Your travel management company can provide you with these answers ahead of time and more, but it is also important to do your due diligence and research the destination requirements. We also rely on the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for up-to-date visa and vaccine requirements. A frequently updated list of country requirements is critical—our duty of care policy has an appendix that includes this checklist and individual guides per country.
Addressing safety – What is your organization’s policy on taxis and Ubers? Do you offer airport transfers? When creating our duty of care policy, we were very intentional about these details, for example: we would provide airport transfers for all travelers except when traveling to a few specific locations, such as the United States. Ride-sharing services are allowable, except when countries or cities have banned the service. Hailing taxis is permitted, but only at hotels—not at the side of the road due to safety concerns, unregulated taxis, etc. If you do not currently have these policies in place, ask your most frequent travelers or your travel management company as they can speak to the safety queries.
Giving your traveler the ability to say no to a trip – Your traveler should be aware of this and it should be documented in your policy. We expressly state travelers have a right not to travel to—or curtail a trip to—any destination on the grounds of fear for their personal safety. Humentum will not censure any travelers for this decision.
Resuming travel during COVID-19 – Even with a vaccine now available in some countries, we still have a way to go before travel returns to normal. As mentioned previously, awareness of which countries are open to travelers and their travel requirements is paramount. But additionally, what are you doing to provide the safest accommodation for your travelers? Documenting this in your duty of care policy shows your travelers you understand travel during a pandemic. Are you only using certain hotels or airlines with a commitment to service and cleanliness? How do you support your traveler if they need to quarantine before or after arriving at their destination? What stipends do you have in place for food and any extras, such as laundry? Minimizing travel-related stress can go a long way.
This is just the starting point of your duty of care journey. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, put yourself in the traveler’s shoes, and most importantly, take your time when crafting an equitable policy that is the right fit for your travelers and your organization. Have more questions? Reach out to your travel management company or if you are a Humentum member, reach out to your peers on Humentum Connect or to Humentum’s travel Industry Partners to steer you in the right direction.