Whether you are travelling yourself, or organising business travel for others, who has your back in the event of a crisis? asks John Morgan
The world is changing, so it is important that adequate consideration is given to risk management when planning for business travel abroad.
If you are responsible for organising corporate travel, or you travel abroad yourself, signing up to receive regular emails or alerts from the relevant department of your government is the first step to managing the risk. Checking whether your insurance covers includes the cost of privately sourced assistance will enable you to make alternate arrangements, e.g. employing the services of an international risk management company, before an incident occurs. Whether it is kidnapping, extortion, cyber-crime, evacuation from high-risk situations, or incarceration in a foreign jail, it is difficult to satisfactorily resolve such emergencies remotely.
Many people mistakenly assume that their governments or their insurance company will help in a travel emergency, but often they can’t or won’t. For example, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in their 2014 publication Support for British nationals abroad: a guide, stated “There is no legal right to consular assistance. All assistance is provided at our discretion.” In 2014-15, the FCO received nearly 400,000 consular enquiries but provided personal assistance in just 17,058 cases. This is true of many, if not most, embassies across the globe
Consular assistance can be needed for something as simple as a lost passport, but there are many more serious scenarios happening every day, such as immigration arrests, victims of crime, or acts of terrorism or deaths abroad
For employers, incidents abroad can have an impact on the company reputation, relationships with clients, operational effectiveness and ultimately profits. At the same time, companies have a duty of care to staff, wherever they may be located. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and the global marketplace becomes more accessible, the corporate duty of care companies must demonstrate for staff becomes more complicated.
Companies need to ask themselves: What is our duty of care? How do we define it? What are the quantifiable measures to examine, and how do we mitigate against these material risks? A useful rule of thumb in defining duty of care requirements is to consider the outcome of a legal challenge against the company from an employee or their estate.
What should you be doing to protect yourself and your colleagues?
International business travel to areas of political, social and economic instability is fraught with dangers. A few tips on what and where to avoid, along with the address of the local Embassy or High Commission does not equate to adequate preparations!
You need appropriate risk mitigation strategies in place, and these should include policies and procedures. Countries visited need to be regularly risk-rated and formal risk assessments carried out. How do you assess your risks, and what format is used to discuss this within the management group responsible? These tasks may fall to your HR, Risk & Compliance, or the security department, but professional advice could be beneficial. Preparing staff for trips through workshops, delivered by those who really understand the business of corporate travel is a cost effective and practical option. Such workshops tailor the content based not only on the destination location, but also on the demographic and readiness of the travellers.
So you and your colleagues are prepared, you have policies and procedures in place, but what if the unexpected happens? You wouldn’t send your staff on a business trip without ensuring both adequate medical expenses and liability cover are in place; making sure help is only a call away if the worst happens when they are abroad must share equal priority.
Business continuity management and corporate resilience aren’t just about supply chain issues and power outages; being prepared for, and able to resolve problems abroad now needs to be included in any disaster recovery planning. Whether your company opts for corporate travel insurance cover which has a consular assistance element or chooses to arrange independent cover, in today’s unstable world, someone needs to have your back.