Post updated on 1/12/17.
We’ve all heard the term ‘duty of care’ – a popular industry term that refers an employer’s legal and moral obligation to mitigate risks for its traveling employees. If your organization were to experience legal woes due to a duty of care oversight, a court would consider the types of measures you took leading up to the incident. For example, do you provide pre-travel information to your employees? What types of crisis response protocols does your organization currently have in place? Are your employees aware of the resources available to them during an emergency? Based on the answers to these types of questions, the court would determine if your organization’s actions were reasonable.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s certainly in any employer’s best interest to avoid these types of predicaments in the first place. After all, employee safety and corporate reputation are not only at stake, but implementing a proactive travel risk management program is generally far less expensive than even just one duty of care oversight.
Luckily, these responsibilities aren’t solely in the hands of employers. There’s a whole other set of obligations that could come into play in a heated legal debate, specifically, the responsibility your employees have to follow the policies and procedures you put into place to protect their health and safety. This concept, becoming known as ‘duty of loyalty,’ infers that employees should refrain from behaving in a manner on a work trip that would be contrary to their employer’s best interests. In short, it is the responsibility an employee has to his/her organization to actively participate in trip planning, follow the emergency procedures outlined in the companies’ policies and to use general common sense in avoiding unnecessary risks when traveling on behalf of the company.
In a perfect world, duty of care and duty of loyalty go hand in hand. Employers develop and enforce appropriate travel risk management guidelines to protect their travelers. And in turn, employees willingly adhere to these guidelines and refrain from risky conduct at their destinations. Sounds great, right? Well… it’s not always that simple. In fact, according to our survey, business travelers are engaging in risky behaviors when they’re on the road—and it’s happening more often than you may think: more than a quarter (27%) of business travelers admit to binge drinking while on business trips, and more than one in ten (11%) told us they’ve “picked up” a stranger at a bar while on a work-sponsored trip. Eight percent of business travelers have even lied to their employer about their activities while on a work-related trip and four percent have even been detained by law enforcement.
This only further demonstrates the need for a healthy and reciprocal employee-employer relationship: the responsibility not only falls on the traveler to act in a responsible and safe manner, but employers need to be proactive by setting appropriate parameters and being clear about its expectations. The challenge? Duty of loyalty can be vague and subjective to one’s own interpretation. The key is specifically defining your company’s stance on duty of loyalty in your current travel policy and asking your employees to acknowledge and sign off on these standards. Because at the end of the day, both duty of care and duty of loyalty should be aligned carefully with your organization’s travel risk management strategies to create the perfect blend of mutual accountability, respect and protection.