Business Travel Abroad
BUSINESS TRAVEL ABROAD IS NEVER DUTY FREE
DUTY OF CARE FOR EMPLOYEES WORKING ABROAD
The health and welfare of employees and the role of the employer in terms of helping to make this happen is not a new concept, but what do we mean by Duty of Care in this context and why does it matter so much?
All employers have a legal and moral Duty of Care to protect the health of their employees during business travel abroad, and many organisations already recognise this and provide timely and up to date travel health advice including vaccinations and/or antimalarials where applicable.
That’s all well and good but what about those organisations that do not currently implement good duty of care practices? What if day to day activities take over, especially likely in SME’s or larger organisations juggling competing priorities? Does it matter? The short answer is yes and here’s why…
Any employer, irrespective of the size of organisation, has a basic obligation to;
1) Assess the risks of travelling (including destination, activity and individual risks).
2) Manage the risks as far as is reasonable.
Employers need a clinical audit trail in the event of any legal proceedings to demonstrate that an employee has been advised to have the necessary vaccinations, antimalarial tablets and received other travel health advice to help protect them on their trip away.
And if employers fail in this obligation? The costs can be high… for all parties. The Palfrey v ARC Offshore Ltd and others case (2001) is just one example…
Mr Palfrey, an offshore engineer contractor was employed by ARC Offshore Ltd. As part of his employment he undertook two trips for a third party to West Africa. During one trip he contracted Malaria and subsequently died. His wife brought an action for damages against her husband’s employer. She claimed that the company did not take reasonable steps to protect her husband’s safety. The High Court held that the company was liable.
So how do organisations fulfil their duty of care obligations for travel abroad?
- Ensure that a thorough risk assessment prior to departure is made available to the employee at least 4-6 weeks before travel, as well as a means of receiving any required vaccinations and antimalarials. Travels planned at short notice? Advice should still be sought as short notice advice is better than no advice.
- This risk assessment should include a full understanding of the itinerary, dates of travel, accommodation, likely activities, pre-existing health conditions, any medication taken, vaccination history etc.
- A comprehensive service should include everything that organisations may need to defend a case during a tribunal, including;
o A full record of assessment
o Recommendations given
o Action taken
The following reminders are useful when discussing up and coming trips away with employees;
- Last minute meeting abroad? Short notice travel health advice is always better than no travel health advice.
- What was true for your colleague on a previous trip may not be true for you as travel health advice is not a one size fits all situation. It is highly dependent on factors such as destination, medical history, planned accommodation and likely activities once away.
- What was true one month, may not be the same the following month. Entry criteria to certain destinations can change quickly, often influenced by disease outbreaks. Only the most up to date and specialist knowledge will do in terms of holiday preparation.
- Prevention is better than cure. Don’t take risks with your health, and depart as prepared as you can be.
- Be informed. Ignorance is never bliss when it comes to travel health, being informed prior to travel is key.
Referring your employees through a specialist Travel Health provider ensures that everyone has that all important peace of mind.