Survey Finds Gaps In Duty Of Care - Business Travel News

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Survey Finds Gaps In Duty Of Care

November 15, 2011 - 12:35 PM ET

By David Jonas

Three-quarters of 718 surveyed human resources, travel, security and other decision makers from 628 companies reported that employees have experienced a medical emergency while traveling, but more than half of those indicated that affected employees had "lack of access to appropriate health care." The survey, conducted by travel security and assistance firm International SOS from November 2010 to February 2011, also found that one-third of respondents "did not know whether the [countries] in which they operate had legal requirements for a duty-of-care provision."

"While most companies are aware of their liability if an employee is injured at work, many don’t realize that they may also be responsible if an employee gets sick during business travel or even if a natural disaster threatens an expat employee's family," according to a blog post by Dr. Lisbeth Claus, the study's author and a professor at Willamette University's Atkinson Graduate School of Management. "Most organizations do a good job of assessing the risks faced by employees, but have difficulty implementing the full spectrum of best practices, particularly when those practices must be exercised across large organizations made up of multiple functions and groups."

According to the study, awareness of duty of care and the practices used to address it vary widely by geography, company size and industry sector. "Corporations headquartered in Western countries, for instance, were found to more fully embrace the notion of duty of care as a legal and moral responsibility," according to Claus. The survey also noted that organizations in the aerospace/defense and natural resources/energy sectors "were ranked most highly above the duty-of-care benchmark," while those in the education, construction and real estate sectors "ranked below the average," according to International SOS.

Meanwhile, the firm suggested that duty of care is "considered everyone's responsibility and cannot be relegated to just one functional group. Therefore, the greatest cost for duty of care lies within planning and implementing best practices, rather than the costs associated with taking care of employees." According to the study, most respondents identified human resources, security/risk and corporate travel as the departments tasked with duty-of-care responsibilities, "albeit with little clarity on which discipline is most suited to manage the task."

Mexico Most Dangerous 

According to survey respondents, Mexico is the highest-risk location for travelers and employees deployed on long-term assignments, based on health, safety and security. It was followed by Nigeria and Afghanistan. "The top 20 primary, perceived high-risk employee locations include key high-growth and emerging markets," according to International SOS. They included India (ranked as fifth-most dangerous), China (eighth), Russia (14th) and Brazil (16th).

"The high proportion of employees in high-risk locations underlines the pressing need of companies to consider seriously the security and medical provisions offered," according to the firm.

The study offered several duty-of-care best practices, including: plan with key stakeholders, assess risk prior to every employee trip, track traveling employees at all times, implement an employee emergency response system and ensure vendors are aligned.

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