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."
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
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.