How to meet your duty of care requirements when employees travel overseas Featured

12:41pm EDT March 1, 2011
How to meet your duty of care requirements when employees travel overseas

Traveling and working abroad often comes with risks, and savvy employers recognize that having employees overseas heightens their corporate liability. By protecting employees against the risks of global travel, employers can manage risks to their business, finances and reputation.

“In today’s litigious society, corporate governance and duty of care are paramount to a company’s crisis management strategy,” says Justin Priestley, executive director for Aon Crisis Management. “Businesses need to react to incidents in a timely and consistent manner, protecting their people, assets, balance sheet and brand reputation.”

Smart Business spoke with Priestley and Kevin J. Pastoor, CPCU, managing director of Aon Risk Solutions, about how to keep your employees safe abroad.

How can businesses ensure that they are meeting their duty of care requirements?

There is a lot of complicated case law on this subject, but the issues are simple. There are three things businesses should consider, and by doing so, they will meet their duty of care.

The first step is actively trying to understand what the risks are for your people, and that means doing a formal assessment of risk. If you say you didn’t know about it, that’s not good enough. You could have tried to find out.

The second thing you need to do is come up with appropriate risk management measures that are matched to the risks you think exist. You need to demonstrate that the plan you are coming up with is appropriate for the risks your employees are facing.

Third, organizations should have a plan and discuss it. Talk about appropriate levels of insurance and how employees are going to get to the airport if there is a problem. Broadly speaking, those steps together provide organizations with a much better opportunity to demonstrate that they are meeting duty of care.

How can businesses ensure they are prepared for travel emergencies?

An adviser can match what it delivers to what it thinks are the main pillars of activity. So up front, it would provide information to travelers so they are aware of the risks in a particular area. An adviser can also provide some basic-level training for travelers.

Another thing a consultant can do, if people are traveling to an elevated risk location — somewhere like Mexico or India — is conduct an independent risk assessment of that proposed journey. It can be done quite quickly; it’s not some long, laborious process. It provides the concerned organization with a third-party independent review for a journey before it is booked, which backs them up in their assessment.

What type of training and education should employers provide for traveling employees?

There are two types of training. E-learning allows organizations to show that people have done the training. We also do an elevated risk course, which is instructor-led.

That course tends to be more specific to a particular client. Another option is an elevated risk course, in which the threats and risks are determined for where someone is going, and then travelers are trained to understand them. For instance, if you are in Central America, kidnapping is one of the major risks, and this is how it happens.

Then a consultant can offer advice on situational awareness. Many people understand what to look for and how to notice if something suspicious is happening. There is some really basic advice on risk mitigation strategies, like not wearing your Rolex watch if you’re traveling in more interesting parts of the world.

It’s important to focus on sensible, pragmatic advice that businesspeople need to understand.

What innovative services can help business travelers?

Mobile technology enables a traveler to see a country’s risk information on the go. Putting that information in people’s pockets is actually quite useful.

It doesn’t produce 20 pages of data on each country. It’s short, concise and condensed. Most people don’t want to read for 30 minutes to understand an issue. They want to read it in two minutes.

Second, there is a nice travel management system for risk managers or corporate security that enables them to know at the push of a button where their people are on a day-to-day basis and what the risk exposure is for those people.

Aon WorldAware, our online country information service, grades risks by looking at what is going on in that country, the capability of the terrorist organizations and their modus operandi. It gives ratings of 1 through 5, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and they can print a report showing how many people they have in low-risk countries, or Level 4 or 5 countries, how many incidents they have had and where those incidents occurred.

It is an independent assessment. A partner has people constantly reviewing every country. There are 10 factors, including terrorism, civil disobedience, kidnap and ransom, street crime. All 10 factors for every country are assessed and scored 1 through 5.

Countries rated 1 through 3 are appropriate for routine business travel. For countries 4 and 5, you have to consider the risks a bit more. To put that into context, Level 5 countries like Iraq, Somalia, or Afghanistan have extreme risks.

The system monitors what happens in the world on a daily basis, and the countries are updated as the risk profile changes. So the Netherlands was last changed in mid-December, but for Egypt, we’ve changed the site on a daily basis for the last three weeks.

Justin Priestley is executive director for Aon Crisis Management. Reach him at +44 (0)20 7882 0478 or

Kevin J. Pastoor, CPCU, is managing director of Aon Risk Solutions. Reach him at (248) 936-5346 or