Duty of care obligations have never been more important, so why do two in five business travellers feel only somewhat, not very, or not at all confident that their employer could provide immediate help or assistance in the event of travel disruption?

11 May, 2020

The current state of uncertainty in the world highlights the importance of risk management. Every day we have left the house during recommended and enforced mobility restrictions we have balanced the risk of Covid-19 infection with our need for exercise, fresh air, or supplies from the local shop. It is the same for every business travel programme, something that will be much more evident when corporate travel rises once more as travel restrictions are eased across the world.

Managing disruption is one of the core components of a good corporate travel programme and the business travel sector has years of experience in dealing with unplanned disruptions. From epidemics and volcanic eruptions to inclement weather and geopolitical unrest, as American Express Global Business Travel highlights, “the only certainty is uncertainty”. Being prepared for unpredictable situations is key to making any travel programme effectively support duty of care obligations.

But, research earlier this year from the managed travel specialist had shown that almost half of travellers still feel only somewhat, not very, or not at all confident that their employer could provide immediate help or assistance in the event of a travel disruption.

The ‘Traveler 360°’ study, involving business travellers from across the United States of America, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India and Singapore, offers a global perspective of the unique needs and concerns business travellers have.

The study highlights that the majority (58%) of more than 1700 international business travellers worldwide feel very or extremely confident that their employer could provide immediate help or assistance in the event of a travel disruption. But, it the remaining 42% that are the real story here.

This finding from the research is particularly concerning right now when general public opinion surveys suggest that many of us remain concerned about emerging into the ‘new normal’ that will define our future mobility.

American Express Global Business Travel says the research suggests that some key duty of care questions “are not well thought out” and shows that this lack of preparation has clearly not gone unnoticed by travellers. Even in the good times travel can be disrupted and a well-designed duty of care programme prepares any team to act quickly and effectively in an urgent situation. But, these are unprecedented times and travellers need and will demand increased support from employers.

“If times like these have taught us anything it’s that planning for unpredictable situations is an important part of fulfilling your company’s duty of care obligations,” explains American Express Global Business Travel in its new ‘Travel Management 101 – Duty of CareTravel Management 101 – Duty of Care’ e-book. “The current state of uncertainty in the industry highlights the importance of caring for your team when they travel for work,” it adds.

As such it suggests there is no better time to review and upgrade welfare programmes. After all, another finding of its ‘Traveler 360°’ study found that an average of 75% of business travellers worldwide agree that their company is responsible for their personal well-being while they are traveling.

In principle, duty of care is a straightforward concept: look after the health and safety of your team when they’re at work. In practice, exact law and responsibilities vary across the world and in definition this duty – which is both ethical and legal – requires companies to make decisions in good faith and in a reasonably prudent manner.

It can be a complex concept that differs significantly from organisation to organisation and sector to sector. But, there are some core fundamentals that extend considerably further than the basic steps taken to provide a safe working environment for travellers on flights, in hotels, and other locations and how to locate and communicate with them in the event of a crisis or disruption.

American Express Global Business Travel advocates three core best practices that should underpin any good duty of care programme: communicate, reduce risk and maximise visibility. When implementing these best practices it urges businesses to be mindful of these points to understand how technology, data security, non-traditional suppliers, and traveller well-being also come into play.