In the simplest form, duty of care is established to protect companies and employees from risk. Each organization needs to define duty of care and make it a priority for constant review. Leadership and stakeholders need to define duty of care for your individual company and your travelers. From a travel perspective, establish a new mindset as we look to get employees traveling again.
BEFORE THE BOOKING - WHERE CAN WE TRAVEL?
Prior to anyone even being able to book a trip, it should be clear whether a destination is within your company’s acceptable parameters for travel to and from that city, region, or country. You cannot easily make decisions for all 195 countries or the cities within them, so start with the locations that are most critical to your organization and work down the list from there. You will see a natural correlation with your top routes pre-pandemic but business priorities may shift the need for
travel to some previously infrequent destinations.
You can make the distinction between travel for internal meetings versus client meetings as well as critical versus non-critical. Some destinations may be included in your “allowed to travel” list but
only for a certain type of travel. The criteria for “Is it safe?” will vary and you will need to
weigh how critical travel to that destination is against the risks. Always bear in mind that there will be a lag between both your communication on where it is safe to travel and the time between when a traveler books and actually travels.
OUTBOUND TRAVEL – WILL TRAVELERS BE DENIED ENTRY?
Remember that COVID-19 has changed how we need to think about risk. You should now also make sure your “safe to travel” list of destinations works both ways. If a location is not on the list, travelers who are based there should likely not travel outside of that area for work. If you are banning internal company travel to Italy, for example, you should also make it clear that travel from Italy to other locations your company operates in is ruled out.
SOME QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT WHEN MAKING THIS DECISION ARE:
- Is the rate of COVID-19 cases in that city increasing or decreasing?
- Is the risk high of the traveler being unable to return (border lockdown, they are quarantined or another reason)?
- Has the pandemic reduced support for travelers in that region in the event they require on the ground assistance from our risk management partner?
- What is the medical infrastructure in place in the event a traveler becomes severely ill?
WHO GETS TO TRAVEL?
The one definite about COVID-19 is there is much we still do not know. Local and regional public health officials cite susceptibility to impact based on underlying health conditions, age, and even gender. Work with your HR and Legal departments to determine best practices for addressing such issues with employees. Employees might approach you and request not to travel because they or someone they live with is at high risk from COVID-19. Know the limitations you have in addressing
these types of conversations. Also recognize that you need to have conversations around the possibility that your travelers, upon returning home from a trip, may likely need to self-quarantine for a period of time.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A TRAVELER CONTRACTS COVID-19?
Your travel, HR, and legal teams should all be prepared for what happens if a traveler contracts COVID-19 while away from home or upon their return. Sadly, we expect lawsuits to be filed in some countries as a result of travelers contracting COVID-19 while traveling for business. You and your company should be prepared and may wish to work with outside legal experts specifically for this scenario.
As COVID-19 has shown to be asymptomatic in a large number of people infected, many companies are recommending travelers self-isolate at home after a trip on the assumption that they may have COVID-19 and not be displaying any symptoms. This not only gives employees extra time at home to recover from travel but also minimizes the risk of unintentionally spreading COVID-19 in your workplace or to other colleagues and customers they meet upon return.
If their symptoms are mild, you may recommend they self-isolate for 14 days provided their condition does not worsen in line with CDC guidelines. However, you should be prepared that the traveler may want to make every effort to return home and you may choose to assist in making travel plans to help them do so. If they are legally allowed to travel and they or you suspect they’ll have better access to high-quality healthcare at home — should they require it — then this could alter that decision.
HOW DO I KNOW WE’RE MAKING THE RIGHT DECISIONS?
A pandemic is a challenge that business travelers have never faced before. The recovery is no different. As new data, legislation, and recommendations affect travel, you and your travelers will have to adapt along with your suppliers and colleagues in other departments. Be transparent and open with your colleagues as much as you can and take every sensible step to safeguard the health and wellbeing of your people but most of all be ready to move quickly when a situation changes and calls for urgent action.
There's much more to duty of care when travel returns in the midst of COVID-19 and we know you might have other questions we haven't covered here today. You can get a lot more information on this topic by downloading our complete 60+ page ebook, The Ultimate Guide to When Travel Returns. Additional health and duty of care-related topics include:
- Preparation: What should travelers receive before their trip??
- Wellness: My travelers are anxious. How can I help?
- Flights: Now, nobody wants the middle seat
- Hotels: Bye-bye mini-bar and other hotel advice for travelers
There are also eight other chapters filled with information on other topics that you can't afford to miss. Go get that free ebook right now!