International business trips: keeping employees safe

Many forms of employment involve travel, including trips abroad. Although it is still far behind holidays as a reason for travel, the Office for National Statistics reported over 7 million trips for business purposes in 2016. This number is likely to continue to increase. This throws up a number of issues for both the employer and employee on their respective duties.

Request to work abroad

It’s always best to ask your employees if they are happy to be sent abroad for a period of time. If this a likelihood, it should be written into their contract. If this is an existing employee who already has a contract, be careful about the regulations regarding changes to that contract.

While an employee is travelling for the company they have their existing employment rights. The only exceptions to this are if the posting lasts for 8 days or more and travel is to the European Union. If so, then the minimum terms of the national legislation apply.

A staff handbook should clearly state the requirements for employees in terms of their behaviour while abroad. This should also include what disciplinary action can be taken. Other policies such as the implications for overtime and time off in lieu which are raised by international business trips can also be included.

Emergencies abroad

Problems can arise abroad just as they can at home. Your employees need to know how to deal with a medical or other emergency while on an international business trip. Your employee should have medical insurance for travelling. In many countries health care is expensive with even a minor injury racking up huge bills, especially outside of the European Union. Employees carrying an EHIC card are currently entitled to the same medical care as a native within the EU.

Other emergencies could include:

  • Terrorist attack
  • Natural disaster
  • Political unrest
  • Strike action hindering travel
  • Infectious diseases

Employers have a duty of care to employees and should carry out a risk assessment to check the safety of the location. Good communication is essential to keep track of your employees help them if required. Tracking apps are a great way to monitor and manage the safety of employees abroad. However, be aware of privacy issues with tracking and be clear with your employees who has access to the data.

Pre-trip planning

Good planning can reduce confusion and ensure a smooth international business trip. Providing your employee with as much local knowledge as possible will help them have a more productive trip.

  • Check well in advance if an employee has a passport and if they do not, have a policy on how payment for this will be worked out.
  • Find out if immunisations are necessary.
  • Make sure they know the local customs and laws.
  • Any safety implications, such as travelling at night, should be discussed in advance.
  • Knowing in advance the location of the nearest medical facility or law enforcement will reduce anxiety in the case of an emergency.
  • Make everyone aware of weather conditions.

Travelling tends to involve lots of expenses. If you agree on a budget and how expenses will be recorded before travel this will avoid any problems arising as a result. It’s also best to consider which expenses  won’t be covered by the company so they can be discussed.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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