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HR's guide to corporate travel risk

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As global markets expand and companies look to international shores for new business revenues, the UK workforce has become increasingly mobile. But what are the considerations?

Organisations and their employees invest significant time and money in corporate travel. As global markets expand and companies look to international shores for new business revenues, the UK workforce has become increasingly mobile. But what are the considerations?

As a result today’s business travellers are required to explore new and emerging markets, often taking them beyond more established locations. Indeed the largest increase in UK business travel for H1 2015 versus H1 2014 was in Tunisia – which saw a 362% increase in business travel visits, compared with the prior year, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

Corporate travel policies must therefore reflect a broad range of risks across an even broader range of geographies. Regardless of where employers are sending their staff, from Norway to Nepal, implementing robust Duty of Care practices has become more important than ever before.

As demand for business travel evolves, financial pressures have forced employers to restrict the travel benefits available to their workforce and this has raised a critical question: how do those charged with protecting employees and ensuring their health and wellbeing continue to do so in the face of greater risks but less resource?

Budgetary pressures and travel demands

Before addressing the potential remedies, it’s worth considering the spectrum of potential issues this tug of war between budgetary pressures and travel demands presents. At one end, there is less frequent but potentially life-endangering risks. These are usually associated with emerging and unstable markets but as recent events in Paris have demonstrated, these risks have a global presence.

At the other end of the spectrum is the higher frequency, lower impact events – anything from a road traffic accident or food poisoning to the influence of extreme fatigue. Either way, the longer term financial impact on the employer – be that the implications of responding to an unforeseen emergency, compensating an employee for a lack of Duty of Care or dealing with a tired and unproductive workforce – is costly. 

Corporate travel risk policy

One of the most fundamental ways to mitigate against these travel risks is a robust and regularly updated corporate travel risk policy. This is all about balancing financial constraints and risk exposure so it should include everything from a policy on wearing seatbelts through to one covering business class travel and booking via an approved travel management company.

However, much like any corporate policy, compliance is another challenge to consider. The use of small incentives over company diktats that employees follow these procedures (for example, offering certain travel benefits that can only be accessed via an approved travel management company or booking process) can be one way to encourage employee cooperation and also boost morale.

Assessing individual needs

The further key challenge is being able to assess the needs and travel risks of employees on an individual basis. What’s safe for one individual may not be safe for another, perhaps due to their age, medical history or personal situation.

Organisations that adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to this assessment will most likely overlook important risk factors that are specific to an individual, and in the long run, this can also be prohibitive in terms of time and cost.  

The value of assistance

Ensuring an employee’s health, safety and wellbeing is a complex task that requires global networks, significant resources and real-time information.

As the complexities of business travel risk continue to evolve, striking the balance between budgetary pressures and new corporate travel risks and horizons is a challenge that will become increasingly prominent.

Having policies, practices and networks in place that help you stay one step ahead is a pre-requisite for achieving this, but having the tools in place to recognise the individual needs of each employee is the only way to ensure this is effectively implemented in the long run.  

3 key points for balancing financial constraints and business travel risk:

1. A comprehensive travel risk policy that is reviewed and updated regularly and implemented widely 

2. The ability for employees to access advice and guidance relevant to their travel and
Circumstances, both pre and in-travel 

3. Access to a reliable, global network to call upon that can offer medical and security information and assistance, wherever your employees are 

Randall  Gordon-Duff

By Randall Gordon-Duff

Randall is head of product, corporate travel, at Collinson Group.

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