“Due diligence” refers to the steps employers can take in advance to remove or minimise any foreseeable health and safety risk to their employees.

All employers have a duty of care to their staff. They have a legal responsibility to ensure their health and safety is protected at all times; this includes the times when they’re on a work trip, either domestic or abroad.

Business travel can be good for employees and companies alike. The face-to-face connections that are formed and strengthened are often stronger than ones built remotely and the break from routine is often welcome for workers, with 37% in a recent study saying business travel improved their skillset and 6 in 10 claiming it had allowed them to see parts of the world they wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to visit. However, it’s also full of potential risks, and appropriate training and preparation is very important.

What does Due Diligence mean for Business Travel?

Workers on business trips are subject to the same risks as all other workers, as well as many that are specific to travelling. Conducting a risk assessment is an important way of identifying hazards that might cause problems. Of course, there can be issues that crop up unexpectedly, and employers are only expected to look at risks that could be deemed foreseeable.

Due diligence extends over the following areas:

Transport and Accommodation – Employees will face lots of potential risks when they’re in transit from one place to the next and when they’re at their hotels.

Accommodation should be researched in advance to ensure it’s appropriate, with more than just price and location taken into consideration. This is easier than ever today, with travel review sites providing a good starting point for research. If employees from your company regularly travel to the same location, it’s worthwhile discussing options with people who have already been there to find out about the pros and cons of a particular hotel. There are many horror stories online about business travellers arriving at their hotels and finding safe or unclean conditions. Considering that people are more at risk of many health complaints during corporate travel – including food poisoning, viruses and stress-related conditions – it’s vitally important to make sure they’re returning to a comfortable, safe place after their work is done in an evening.

Driving in an unfamiliar environment can cause many issues. Any employees doing so should be aware of the rules of the road in that specific country and should be properly trained in safe driving techniques. Public transport can also vary in both its reliability and safety records depending on the area. All trips within the country should be considered and all modes of transport included in the risk assessment.

Supplies – Workers should have emergency documents, means of communicating (such as fully charged mobile phones) and first aid equipment with them on their travels. Employers should ensure they have these and not assume that all employees are seasoned travellers in their personal lives. They should also provide their staff with a list of emergency contacts to get in touch with in any kind of emergency.

Communication – Staying in contact with employees on the road is extremely important, especially for those who are travelling alone or for extended periods of time. Although work trips can often be very full on and employees won’t always be contactable (for example, during client meetings), it’s a good idea to schedule regular check ins. This ensures the employer is meeting their duty of care throughout the trip and flags up that there’s a problem quickly in the event of a worker falling out of contact while abroad.

Emergency Response and Support – The list of potential risks to a business traveller is quite long: natural disasters and terrorist attacks can all be classed as foreseeable risks in some parts of the world, and fall under an employer’s due diligence. Employers should plan for day to day risks too, such as an unexpected illness or injury, loss of travel documents or falling victim to a crime. They need to produce a plan for all of these eventualities and make sure this is communicated clearly to their staff before their trip.

Itinerary and Safety – Even with all the due diligence in the world, unexpected travel delays happen; trains and planes can be delayed or cancelled with no warning, sometimes leaving business travellers stranded. The itinerary of a work trip needs to allow for such eventualities and also have some built-in down time for employees. Business travel can be very tiring and regular trips are linked with health issues, so workers need time to unwind and rest between meetings.

Should a member of staff be stranded unexpectedly, they need to know who to contact and that their employer has a backup plan. If possible, avoid transfers and waiting time in high-risk areas in case they are delayed there and unable to leave for some time. This is another issue that’s particularly important to consider if people are travelling alone at any point in their trip.

Safe, healthy business travel that benefits the company and the employees is very much achievable. A small amount of preparation and research can make sure employers are honouring their due diligence and doing everything they can to protect their staff.

Corporate travel – also known as business travel – refers to any journey undertaken for the purposes of a business. Sales and supplier meetings, networking, training sessions, trade shows and trips between different company locations all fall within the definition, though commuting to and from work is usually not included.

Business travel is a key part of many jobs and plays an important role in strengthening partnerships between suppliers and customers. Even with the growth of teleconferencing technology, face-to-face meetings can make a huge difference to business relationships and drive sales by adding a personal touch that it’s difficult to replicate over Skype. In fact, business travel is generally on the rise in the UK; already accounting for an estimated £39 billion in spend in the UK alone, it’s forecast to increase by 3.7% a year over the next decade.

Types of Business Travel

In 2017, there were 6.8 million business trips abroad from the UK – the third most common reason for leaving the country after holidays and visits to loved ones. In the same period, 8.8 million people visited the UK for business purposes. Although this was a dip from the previous year’s figures, it represents a large boost to the economy, and clearly businesses still see value in conducting corporate travel. The general trend is towards an expansion of business travel.

Of course, not all business travel involves trips overseas. For companies with multiple sites, it’s often necessary for people to travel between them regularly. Sales pitches and supplier evaluations are often more effective when conducted in person. Physical deliveries require business travel. In these cases, it’s often an expectation that the income raised from these activities will more than compensate for the initial outlay of sending the employees out to other locations.

In many industries, trade shows are very important for keeping up to date with the latest developments and meeting with partners and competitors, as well as advertising a company’s products and services to a relevant market. For exhibitors at larger shows, this may require several employees to travel to the show.

Business travel is central to SMEs and larger organisations alike and the amount required varies between companies.

Knowing the Risks

Whilst corporate travel can be beneficial and often enjoyable, it’s also one of the riskiest parts of many job roles.

  • Irregular hours and unfamiliar surroundings can contribute to fatigue and accidents.
  • Road travel over long periods can become dangerous, though proper training in road safety can help.
  • Travelling abroad can put employees at greater risk of crime or health issues, depending on their destination.
  • Keeping track of employees and making sure they’re safe can be more challenging when they’re in transit or staying elsewhere. If possible, it can be safer for colleagues to travel together so no-one is left alone for extended periods of time.

Just as for office-based workers, employers have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their staff at all times. Making sure employees are aware of the risks, properly trained in dealing with them and fully supported before, during and after their journey can go a long way towards avoiding any hazards.

Benefits of Corporate Travel

When done correctly, corporate travel can be great – both for the company and for the person travelling.

For the employee, it can be a valuable opportunity to experience different cultures, including the working culture of the place they’re visiting. Assignments abroad (or involving lots of locations within the UK) can be an eye-catching addition to their CV, especially if the logistics involved required lots of forward planning. In an increasingly interconnected world, fostering business relationships with colleagues, customers and suppliers in a different part of the world can be a huge bonus.

It’s increasingly common for members of staff to use annual leave to extend their stay and spend the extra days exploring a new place without having to pay for their flights. An estimated 80% of Millennial workers have considered taking this option. For people whose family obligations allow, this can be a major perk of the job.

On the business side, face-to-face meetings can be very effective in securing new business. Many people are more likely to trust someone who they’ve met in person, and for some larger contracts it can be a requirement before any paperwork is signed. Though it can be costly, corporate travel is often a huge benefit to new and existing business relationships.

Business travel is an important and often enjoyable part of a huge number of jobs, but it isn’t without its risks.

Conducting a thorough assessment of the potential hazards associated with the destination and the means of transport is a key part of meeting the employer’s duty of care towards its staff. Employees are protected by all the same rules during travel as they are when they’re at their desks.

An Ipsos Mori survey from 2017 suggested 58% of businesses had changed travel plans due to security concerns. It pays to be aware of security problems and stay informed of any changes, as security threat levels can change in an instant.

How do you Conduct a Security Review for Business Travel?

All security issues should be considered as part of a broader risk assessment covering all aspects of the trip.

A 2016 survey from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives revealed 67% of business travellers report a psychological effect on themselves and their families when they travel to a region where their safety may be compromised. Though sometimes travel risks may be truly unavoidable, it pays to be aware of them well in advance and for employers and employees alike to do everything they can to minimise them.

The areas that should be covered by a travel security review are:

Destination – The UK government publishes travel advice on every country in the world, which is a great place to begin when assessing security risks. It includes a terrorism threat level which is updated regularly, like all information on the site. If a country has travel warnings associated with it, it might be time to cancel or postpone the trip. Meetings that can be done remotely could be rearranged to remove the threats to the security of the employees who were planning to travel.

It’s useful to conduct thorough research into the country’s political, economic, social and cultural situation before booking. Some countries will be obviously high risk due to being part of a warzone or having frequent terrorist attacks, but others might have issues that many won’t be aware of without looking into the subject more deeply. Some hazards will apply to all travellers equally and others will affect certain groups of travellers disproportionately, such as women, members of the LGBT+ community or people with disabilities.

Emergency Response – If the worst happened and there was a security breach or a terrorist attack, would the travelling employees have an emergency response plan? Are they properly trained in travel safety?

Even the safest destination won’t be entirely free from crime. If employees are well-versed in security issues around travel safety, they’re less likely to fall victim to theft. It’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure their staff are trained in this, without assuming all employees have travelled extensively before.

All travelling employees should have all necessary emergency contacts with them and should know who to contact first in case of any emergency. They should also have regular check-ins to ensure their travel is going to plan (this is often a service offered by Travel Management Companies (TMC)).

Hotel and Airport Security – If a business traveller has to catch a connecting flight in a third country before reaching their destination, even if they don’t plan on leaving the airport, this should form part of the security review. Like all public places, airports and train stations can be at particular risk of attack, as the March 2016 bombing of Brussels airport illustrated.

Likewise, the choice of hotel should take security issues into account. If it’s in a higher risk area, does it have good security and has it got a good record of client safety? Employees should never be booked into places where there are concerns about their security.

With so many businesses relying on well-organised corporate travel, increasing numbers are partnering with Travel Management Companies (TMCs) to handle their requirements on an ongoing basis. TMCs perform many of the functions of a traditional travel agency but tailored for business needs, and often negotiate special rates with hotel chains and airlines. They also track employees on their journeys to protect their safety.

With so many TMCs in the sector, it’s difficult to choose the one that most closely matches the needs of your business. Offerings will vary as will prices, and sector-specific specialisms. The Request for Proposal (RFP) process allows companies to choose the TMC that’s right for them by inviting providers to submit proposals outlining how they would meet the key requirements. It’s essentially an invitation to tender.

How do you Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

The clearer you are about your requirements, the easier it will be to filter out any TMCs who can’t meet them and find the ones that fit.

The beginning is the best time to consult with employees from all departments, including accounts or finance and any group that travels regularly, such as sales or on-site support. They will all have valuable insight into what their needs are and take the process beyond the simple “cheapest quote wins” stage, which can lead to a bad fit between company and TMC and settling for a lesser service.

Decide on your key requirements early on. It might help to research some TMCs to see which services they offer. Knowing how they vary will give you a clearer idea of what sort of TMC you would prefer to work with. Sometimes companies issue a Request for Information (RFI); shorter and more focused than the larger RFP, they can help to get a feel for a TMC’s values and how they work, and are less time-consuming than going through the longer process. Another avenue to explore is asking for the TMCs’ “standard proposals”, which summarise what they offer in an easy-to-compare format. At this stage, you will have a much stronger idea of what’s available and the criteria you’re going to use to decide between competing bidders at the RFP stage.

Although you want your RFP to be thorough, try to keep it as focused as possible when writing the questions you want to use. It’s a balance between getting all the information you need (and making sure you haven’t missed any key requirements out, as getting to the final stages of the process only to find your chosen providers don’t offer a vital service is frustrating) and avoiding being overwhelmed with information when the TMCs’ proposals arrive. There are many companies in the sector all providing slightly different offerings, and sometimes RFPs will draw a surprisingly large amount of responses.

Make sure your deadline for TMCs to respond is realistic and allows them time to pull together the necessary information. This can sometimes take longer than expected.

How do you Choose a TMC from their Responses?

Bear in mind that price is not the only concern. Out of hours services and regular employee safety tracking can have a big impact on workers’ safety when they’re on the road and can be especially important if they’re travelling to high-risk areas. If TMCs prefer to book with a particular airline or hotel chain, ensure these meet your internal standards and your employees will be happy to use them.

It’s up to each company to decide which factors they put the most weight on. In order to assess all responses fairly and make sure you don’t miss an outstanding bid, it could be useful to produce a scoring system and measure all proposals against it.

Assuming more than one proposal meets your pricing and services requirements and is a good cultural fit for a partnership, you may want to consider other factors. Is the TMC new or established? Is it a large company (which often have the resources to offer more) or a smaller, boutique style company that might be better equipped to provide personalised attention and give your account priority at times? Some TMCs work with all kinds of companies in all sectors and others are more specialised. It might help their case if they’ve had success with similar organisations in the past.

Like many business partnerships, the link between TMC and company is largely about relationships. It’s likely to be long-term cooperation and it’s important to find the TMC that’s right for your company’s needs.

Many professions require regular domestic travel, whether as part of their day to day role or to attend special events such as trade shows. With 8.8 million business trips going overseas from the UK in 2017, international travel is also very common, and many predict that this trend will grow in the years to come.

For many employees, travelling for work is one of the riskiest activities they undertake in their jobs. Though the vast majority of work trips take place without any serious issues and everyone returns safe and healthy, it’s vital to be aware of the risks so that they can be avoided or minimised.

What can Employers do to Improve Travel Safety?

Employers have a duty of care towards their travelling employees. It’s both a legal and moral responsibility to ensure their health and safety, just as much as it would be for on-site staff. Employers should have a detailed itinerary and must check in regularly to make sure everything is on track; this is also a way of making sure the alarm is raised early should anything go wrong or if the employee is unexpectedly out of contact.

Implementing a travel safety policy can be a useful way of making sure everyone is aware of travel safety standards and that they must be followed for every trip. It should set out what needs to be done before and after the journey, both by the employee and their manager, and other relevant people.

A thorough travel risk assessment should be conducted. As the circumstances and individuals travelling for each trip will be different, this process will need to be repeated for each journey, though it might be sufficient to conduct just one for the entire travelling group (as long as any relevant individual circumstances are taken into account). This is something that needs to be decided according to what’s appropriate. Risk assessments can raise any issues with transport, accommodation, safety, security and health that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Employers need to ensure that employees have basic supplies such as a first aid kit, a working phone charger and contacts for emergencies, such as local hospitals, insurance details and the number of the UK embassy or consulate.

In a recent survey, 58% of UK business travellers reported being concerned about travelling to places they did not know, with 66% concerned about not being able to make changes to bookings if something unexpected occurred. Anything employers can do to ease these anxieties and help their employees have a safe trip should be done. If possible, it’s better for employees not to travel alone due to safety, especially if they’re unexpectedly delayed in an unfamiliar place.

If the company takes part in lots of business travel, it may be worth hiring a travel manager to arrange it. Alternatively, employing the services of a travel management company (TCM) can be helpful, and good ones will risk assess all transport and hotels beforehand, giving the employees and their employer peace of mind.

What can Employees do to Improve Travel Safety?

Training staff in travel safety can be very useful. This equips travelling employees to prepare for their trip, even if they haven’t travelled abroad a lot in their personal lives, and alerts them to common hazards and how to deal with them if they arise.

Research is key. The more research that is conducted into the culture and political situation of the destination, the better. It’s also worth being aware of any environmental risks such as extreme weather conditions. If the corporate travel involves meetings with businesspeople from the host country, researching their cultural and business behavioural norms can be very useful for building relationships. One of the most important aspects of pre-travel research is finding out about the entry and visa requirements for each destination. Both the employer and the employee should look into this so nothing is missed, and ideally it should be looked at a few months in advance in case the visa process takes a long time.

Being aware of general safety advice such as keeping travel documents in a locked safe in the hotel when they’re not needed, sticking to well-lit places at night and not going off alone unexpectedly without informing people where you’re going will always help.

Corporate travel is an important part of the work of most companies. Whether employees attend one major trade event every year or they’re on the road daily, their health and safety is the most important concern.

Companies have the same duty of care to their travelling employees as they do to their on-site workers. Producing a company-wide travel policy is one way to ensure the right steps are taken before, during and after each trip to make sure you’re compliant, and a risk assessment must be conducted beforehand to foresee any hazards.

What is a Travel Safety Policy and What Should it Include?

Travel policies set out the standards that all business travel is expected to meet. They can include rules on expenses (such as how much hotels and transport should cost, and the appropriate ways of paying for travel expenses), preferred hotels and car rental vendors. It must provide any details of your travel management company (TCM) if you have one, and make sure people are aware travel needs to be booked through them.

In terms of safety, there are many areas that need to be considered in a thorough travel policy:

Risk Assessment – Each trip requires a risk assessment tailored to the destination and individuals on the journey. This is a very important requirement and needs to be emphasised in a travel safety policy.

Itinerary and Emergency Protocol – Requiring employees to submit a detailed itinerary for their trip allows the company or their TCM to track them easily. This ensures they’re safe and that their journey is going to plan. They should have regular check-ins when possible so their safety can be established. How often and what form these take will be individual to each company and each trip. It’s important to check the business travellers have all necessary visas and vaccinations they will need for their trip in advance.

Letting travelling employees know what they should do in an emergency is important. It could be vital in a natural disaster or terrorist attack. If travellers fall victim to a more common problem like theft or a sudden illness, they will be better equipped to handle it if the travel policy for these matters has been communicated to them in advance.

Hotel and Transportation Standards – Perhaps the most dangerous part of many business trips is when the employees are getting from A to B. Their hotel can also be a problem area, where many health issues can arise.

Many travel policies put a limit on the price of the hotel. This should be carefully balanced with the need to secure safe, reliable accommodation in every location. If the company or their TCM have a price arrangement with a certain chain of hotels whose quality can be relied upon, this should be communicated to staff.

Training – Making sure all employees are appropriately trained in travel safety can give everyone peace of mind. It shouldn’t be assumed that all employees have extensive travelling experience outside of work, but even seasoned travellers can benefit from training geared towards business travellers.

Insurance – Employees should be made aware of what form of insurance the company has for them, what it covers and how to access details of it.

As with all business policies, it’s best if they’re created collaboratively. People are more likely to follow policies they’ve helped to create, and it can help to examine the rationale behind each decision before including it in the final policy. Surveys have shown that only 38% of business travellers think their company travel policy is satisfactory, so getting the input of those the policy will affect most is vitally important.

Benefits of Travel Safety Compliance

An estimated 6.8 million overseas business trips took place from the UK in 2017, with the number of domestic ones taking the overall tally much higher.

Like any company policy, a travel policy is only effective if it’s followed. It may seem time-consuming for busy employees to follow specific rules or book things through the correct channels, but if the reasons for these rules – which are primarily employee safety and the desire for the trip to run as smoothly as possible – are clearly communicated from the start, workers are more likely to be on board with them. This is especially true if the employees have some say in what goes into the policy. Working with those it directly affects guarantees a more effective document. If it is reviewed regularly, perhaps annually, this allows it to be altered depending on changing circumstances and gives newer employees a chance to have an input.

Following a travel safety policy allows the company to meet its duty of care and stay on the right side of any relevant health and safety legislation.

Business travel, like any work activity, comes with some level of risk. Whether the trip is a car journey from one company office to another within the UK or extended travel to a major trade show in another country, employers have a duty of care towards their staff just as they would if they were on their premises.

There are lots of personal accounts on the internet about corporate travel gone wrong – hotels that turned out to have infestations, travel delays stranding passengers in unsafe areas – but the majority of business trips happen without a hitch, and all staff return safe and healthy. Risk assessments increase the likelihood of being in the latter camp rather than starring in another internet horror story.

Why Conduct a Travel Risk Assessment?

Risk assessment is a vital tool in identifying hazards, making sure control measures are in place to avoid or minimise risks and ensuring employees are aware of the risks they might face. Just as with fire risk or hazardous substances risk assessments, travel risk assessments can be a useful way of noticing potential problems that might otherwise have gone undetected, and removing that portion of the trip if necessary; for example, if a meeting is taking place in an area with a poor safety record, it might be possible to rearrange the trip so that the meeting takes place elsewhere.

Employers are only expected to plan for events that are foreseeable. Though every effort must be made to consider all angles and likely scenarios, there are times when something so unlikely happens that it couldn’t reasonably have been thought about in advance. Unfortunately, this is part of the risk of business travel.

What Should be Included in a Travel Risk Assessment?

Travel safety training and thorough research into the destination in questions are important first steps to take. When the risk assessment is being conducted, it helps to consider the following categories:

Accommodation and Transport – A large amount of most business trips will be spent travelling and this is where many of the hazards will be found. Unfortunately, airports and train stations are often high-risk areas for theft, so there are potential issues before the journey even begins. Depending on the location, public transport may be unreliable or unsafe, and driving could be an issue because of poor road infrastructure, unfamiliarity with driving laws and customs, or vehicles that haven’t been maintained well. Any issues should be accounted for in a risk assessment.

Accommodation needs to be carefully considered in advance, and not only in terms of pricing and location. Safety issues such as fire risks need to be considered, as well as the water and food hygiene of the hotel. Stomach problems are one of the most common reasons business trips are derailed, and proper research into the safety of food preparation can make this less likely.

Work Activities – Anything the employees may do on a corporate trip as part of their job is subject to the same risk assessment standards as it would be if they were in the workplace. Will they be exposed to hazardous substances or operating dangerous machinery?

Health – The physical safety of employees on business trips is often considered but their health can sometimes be neglected. Travel, especially if it’s regular and longer than a day or two, is associated with health problems that can build up over time. Hazards local to the destination have to be considered too, and employees should be up to date with all the necessary vaccinations.

Destination – The UK government publishes travel advice for every country in the world on their website. This is a good starting point for research into the cultural, political, environmental and legal issues associated with that country, their entry and visa requirements and any government advice restricting travel to that area. Travel safety training for the individual employees can help them work out what to look out for in advance of their trip.

Individual – Do any of the employees going on the trip have characteristics or circumstances that might put them at particular risk? Disability, illness and mobility issues might all have this effect. They might also belong to a group that faces greater discrimination or legal barriers in other countries. If one of your travelling employees is a wheelchair user, for example, extra care would need to be taken to ensure they’re able to access their accommodation and any meetings they need to attend; they might also need alternative transport arrangements at some parts of their journey.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it provides a good grounding in what an effective travel risk assessment should include. Every business trip is different, and the travel risk assessment should be updated each time.

Business travel is an integral part of many jobs and most employees will have to take at least a handful of business trips during their career.

Just as when they’re office-based, employers have a responsibility to make sure their travelling employees stay safe and healthy. Despite 86% of employers being unaware that they’re necessary, conducting a pre-travel risk assessment is important. It needs to cover all foreseeable issues the employee may run into before or during their trip, including mode of transport, itinerary and destination.

Knowing the Risks

Whether the trip is within the UK or overseas, the risks involved will change depending on the circumstances and the duration of the trip.

Pre-travel – Each country will have different rules about visas and the necessary vaccinations needed to enter. As some visa applications can take a considerable amount of time, this is something that ideally needs to be looked at many months before the trip takes place.

Training your employees on travel safety has huge benefits. Whilst 8 in 10 travellers reported fearing for their safety at some point in their travels, only 4 in 10 said they had researched crime and safety standards in the country they were visiting. Completing a suitable training course and following up with destination-specific research could mean the difference between a safe, healthy trip and falling victim to crime or an avoidable health issue.

Mode of Transport and Itinerary – It’s no secret that cars, trains and planes can all be dangerous in some circumstances, and there’s no getting away from the fact that an employee travelling abroad (or for extended periods in the UK) is going to face risks related to their chosen mode of transport.

Only 23% of travellers consider road conditions abroad before their trip, despite this being one of the major risks. Even a simple issue such as being unfamiliar with driving on the right side of the road can cause problems if it isn’t prepared for.

The itinerary should be considered carefully. If there is a likelihood of missing a connecting flight or train, the employee in question could be stranded in an unfamiliar place, putting their safety at risk.

Destination – Navigating a country you’ve never visited before can be a challenge at the best of times. Conducting research into the political, economic and cultural situations of the destination is a very wise move.

In summer 2018, dentist Dr Ellie Holman and her daughter were detained in Dubai. Ms. Holman was charged after drinking a glass of wine on her flight and therefore having alcohol in her system; it’s illegal to be under the influence of alcohol in the UAE. She was released without charge, but both she and her young daughter were detained for a month beforehand. The difference in cultural and legal expectations between the UK and some countries can be vast and needs to be treated very seriously.

Due to jetlag, tight schedules and long hours, business travellers can become rundown and this makes them more susceptible to health problems. They need to take extra care and be aware of possible health hazards. For example, in many countries visitors are advised not to drink the tap water and to use bottled water even when brushing their teeth.

Steps to Take

Studies have shown that people who travel very frequently for work are at a higher risk of poor physical health, developing mental health conditions and becoming dependent on alcohol or smoking. Although most business travellers will have a much more positive experience of corporate travel than this, it makes sense to be aware of the risks. If a particular employee has an especially large amount of business travel within their role, it may be worth considering if this can be reduced, if they would prefer to travel less; advances in teleconferencing technology have made this easier than ever.

As well as training their employees appropriately, employers should make sure that all travelling employees are insured and able to access emergency medical care when abroad. They should also be made aware of what to do in other types of emergency situations, either natural disasters or legal or political events they might be drawn into.

Staff members have a right to expect the same level of protection from their employer whilst travelling as they would when they’re sitting at their desks.

Around one in five business travellers from the UK, Germany, Singapore, France and India have had to change their plans on a business trip due to concerns about travel safety. With corporate travel playing such a central role in the work of so many organisations, staying safe and healthy on these trips is of paramount importance.

Business travel is on the rise and most employees will have to travel for work at some point in their careers. This could be within the UK, between sites, or across continents. In all cases, it’s very important for employers to take every step they can to ensure the safety of their travelling employees.

Protecting your Staff

Many companies could benefit from producing a travel safety policy. This should set out the key actions that need to be taken before and during the trip, such as leaving a detailed itinerary so that colleagues can confirm the journey is going to plan, and an emergency response plan so that the travelling employee knows what to do in the event of a natural disaster, political upheaval or terrorist attack. There should also be a list of important contacts so that they know what to do should they run into a more common problem like a sudden illness, loss of their travel documents or becoming a victim of crime while abroad.

Given the amount of organisation involved, some companies use a travel management company (TCM) to organise their corporate travel. Others, particularly larger firms whose employees travel very regularly, employ an in-house travel manager to take care of all arrangements. This ensures all logistics are handled appropriately and the accommodation vetted prior to travel, and many organisations find this saves them both time and money, as well as providing a likely increase in safety.

Businesses have the same duty of care to protect their employees’ health and safety when they’re travelling as they do when they’re at their desks. Making sure they’re appropriately vaccinated and have the correct visas for the country they’re visiting can save lots of issues further down the line. It’s also a good idea to consider what the safest mode of transport is in each case. If a journey can be made in both a hire car and by train, it’s worth researching the safety records of both forms of transport in that area and discussing the options with the member of staff involved.

Research is of vital importance before sending an employee abroad for work. This is especially true for any high-risk areas. The government runs a website that provides detailed information on every country, including health and security, terrorism risks, local laws and customs and entry requirements. It’s a good starting point for research. It also helps to keep up to date with the news for that country, to spot any potential dangers. Of course, even the safest destination will still have crime and health risks, so even for seasoned travellers it’s important not to be complacent. If possible, it’s best to avoid sending an employee on a trip alone; there’s safety in numbers. Where this isn’t possible, the lone traveller needs to maintain regular contact with the office to make sure they’re safe at all times.

A good rule of thumb for employers is to consider both the proactive and reactive steps they can take. The former refers to measures designed to avoid employees facing difficult situations and the latter is about being ready to deal with situations effectively when they do occur.

Equipping your Staff to Face Challenges

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as completely risk-free travel – business or otherwise.

Good quality training can be very valuable in helping staff to know which steps to take before their journey and what to be aware of during it. It’s an investment that can make the difference between a safe, productive trip and getting stuck in a bad situation. It’s also a way for companies to meet their duty of care to their staff, ensuring in advance they’re aware of problems that could arise.

Business travel can be tiring. Allow employees the leeway to build sufficient rest time into their itineraries. With long and often irregular hours, the stress of getting from A to B under time constraints and an unfamiliar environment, work travellers are at a greater risk of a host of health problems, both mental and physical. Knowing they have the support of their employer and they’re covered for all eventualities can be very powerful and is something most employees will greatly appreciate.

After a business trip, it may be useful for managers to have a discussion with their employees about what went well on their trip and what could have been improved. This can help when planning future business travel.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees – a legal and moral obligation to do everything in their power to reduce the risks of injury or illness befalling their staff. At no time is this more important than when employees are away on business trips.

Although it can be beneficial for workers and businesses alike, corporate travel can never be completely risk-free. Travelling to a different part of the world and getting around in unfamiliar surroundings will always mean encountering various potential hazards. With some forward planning and effective employer due diligence, however, the risks can be minimised.

A Safe Trip

When planning a business trip, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that employee safety has to be your number one priority. With price concerns high on the agenda and time constraints adding more pressure, sometimes it can feel tempting to skimp on things like accommodation.

For all businesses, their employees are their number one asset and people’s safety transcends any business goals. Protecting a company’s staff is therefore paramount, whether the business travel they’re conducting is a simple drive up the road to another company site or a weeks-long sales trip to a different continent.

The duty of care means that employers need to ensure staff are transported safely to where they need to go and have a safe, comfortable place to stay for the duration of their business trip.

In 2016 the Association of Corporate Travel Executives released a survey of business travellers that revealed 67% of them said there was a psychological effect on them or their families when they travelled to a region where they didn’t feel safe. This may be linked to terrorist attacks in recent years, which have often taken place in countries that would be classed as low risk in other ways. Knowing that their employers take their duty of care seriously and have carried out a thorough risk assessment, including consideration of a country’s political, economic and social situation, may go some way to easing this worry in the minds of employees – and their families.

The UK government website publishes up to date travel advice on all countries, including any specific risks associated with them, their terrorist threat level, and any visa and entry requirements travellers need to be aware of. It’s a good resource for pre-work trip research for employers and employees alike.

Whether the travel is abroad or within the UK, it’s important for people on a business trip to stay in regular contact with at least one other person from the company – preferably their line manager, who should have a detailed itinerary for their trip on-hand. Scheduling regular check-ins throughout the day can be beneficial and allows the employee to state when and for how long they will be out of contact (during supplier meetings, for example). This is a great way of making sure the alarm is raised early if something goes wrong with the trip or if the employee drops out of contact unexpectedly.

A Healthy Trip

Stomach upsets are one of the most common reasons for business trips to be disrupted. Although these (and other common travel health issues such as viruses) can’t always be avoided, there are ways the risk can be minimised. Travellers should be aware of any advice regarding water safety, since in some countries and regions it’s safer to use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth, and to always order food and drink from outlets where they’re confident they’ve been prepared with hygiene in mind. Employers should ensure employees are all made aware of this advice and not assume all of them are experienced travellers in their personal lives. Training them in travel safety prior to their trip can be very valuable.

One of the most important aspects of an employer’s duty of care is its obligation to ensure they’re appropriately insured for their trip and can access all the medical care they need when out and about. Making sure they have a list of emergency contacts is a must, along with instructions for what to do if they’re ill, a victim of crime or if they lose their travel documents.

Regular business travel can have a cumulative effect on employees that leaves them at greater risk of certain health issues. Those that travel the most are more likely to have high BMIs, sleep issues, low exercise levels and a reliance on alcohol or smoking. While most of the advice on travel safety has focused on immediate and physical threats to business travellers’ health, they can also be at a greater risk of anxiety and depression, with the greater amount of time spent away from family and friends being a possible contributing factor. Employers should be aware of this and keep an eye on workers who are away from home more than average, with the possibility of decreasing the amount of travel their role requires (if this is something the employee wants).