Businesses in the UK are operating in an increasingly inter-connected world where business associates and customers might not be based in the same city or even country – but thousands of miles away.
Since export sales are expected to grow in value to £28bn by 2020, business travel is likely to become even more common.
Do you know what your legal obligations are when it comes to sending staff to work overseas?
Business travel and the law
Employers are legally bound to carry a thorough risk assessment of their employees’ working conditions, whether they work in the office or outside. To meet this ‘duty of care’, you’ll have to do a thorough risk assessment before they leave the country. Here are some things to consider…
Are they fit to travel?
You have to know all about any chronic illnesses or conditions like a heart condition, diabetes or anxiety disorders before buying them a plane ticket and their travel history. Do they have any particular dietary or health requirements, like disables access?
Where are they going?
While some locations like pose no obvious risk, others may be risky, especially if there’s political turmoil at the moment, the country is prone to natural disasters or the local sanitation standards are not up to UK standards. You should consider environmental factors like the climate and the level of political stability as part of your assessment, as well as cultural norms that might affect how the employee should behave to stay safe and healthy.
If they are attending meetings in an overseas office, is the premises safe and does it provide disables access, if necessary? What sort of work will your employee be doing and is it inherently risky?
Your staff will be guaranteed the same standard as the local state-provided healthcare within EU countries, so long as they carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them. This means that if something minor happens –like an upset stomach or a migraine – they can be treated locally. But it doesn’t guarantee that all the employee’s medical costs will be covered – and the standards of public health care can vary from country to country. Plus, once they leave the EU, they won’t necessarily be given emergency treatment or access to basic healthcare if they get sick. It’s part of your legal ‘duty of care’ obligation to look into these details.
Your travel policy
Risk assessment completed, it’s advisable to create a business travel policy and train HR or senior management so they know how to implement it. This will help everyone deal with a health situation if arises.
The policy should cover things like meals when travelling, expenses, what the implications of a worker bringing their family along on a business trip are, accommodation, modes of transport and health insurance.
You should put in place procedures about what to do in the case of a health emergency (if the employee gets seriously ill, if they are involved in an accident, if they get caught up in a natural disaster or there is a drink or drug issue, for instance). This should exist in written form and be shared with all staff members as part of their employee handbook. It can be hard to communicate something like this in a large organisation, but it’s important that you can show that you’ve taken reasonable steps to make sure that everyone knows what to do.
And do you ask staff members to share their journey details with you? It’s good practice to keep copies of their passport and flight or accommodation details on file in case of emergencies.
As a precaution, you may wish to take out travel or business health insurance over and above your employers’ liability insurance to protect your employees, should the worst happen. But read the terms and conditions carefully so you know what sort of information you have to give your insurer and what it will and won’t cover you for.
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