How to fulfil your duty of care as a travel manager during COVID-19 and beyond

In Blog by Ulrike

During the COVID-19 crisis and in general travel, it’s important to follow through with duty of care for corporate travelers. Read on for more information on how to fulfil your statutory duty of care.

With the travel sector cautiously approaching the relaunch of global transport and lodging programs, caring about the welfare of your company employees, volunteers or contractors is more important than ever.

Being responsible for the safety of many people can seem difficult to coordinate in these unusual times, but there are ways of making the process simpler and smoother.

What is duty of care?

Duty of care is a legal and moral responsibility that requires you, as a business travel manager, to ensure that your partners have travelers’ best interests in mind.

Those arranging travel through partners must:

  • Ensure the safety of the traveler(s) as much as possible
  • Plan travelers’ journeys with suitably safe transport, accommodation and activities
  • Tell travelers what to do in an emergency and have devised a back-up plan if necessary

These responsibilities can manifest in any number of ways depending on the traveler’s situation, their destination and the duration of their stay.

Why is it important?

As corporate travelers rely on travel managers and their chosen partners to book and coordinate their travel, they are entrusting their welfare to you.
Without taking proper duty of care, travelers are put at risk of personal injury or worse, and you or your company may find yourselves liable if an incident should occur.
Making sure that your travel partner can provide the safest and most extensive care possible can help to ease travelers’ mind before and during travel.

How to fulfil your duty of care during COVID-19

When considering the booking of journeys for business travelers, make sure you’ve accounted for as many eventualities as possible. Coordinating all your travel bookings with one centralized partner allows you to provide better care for your travelers’ needs, keeping all the important details in one place. It allows you to have clear oversight over travelers’ movements, making it easier for you to help them if you need to.
When considering sending travelers to a new location, you should:

1. Research the destination thoroughly

Whether you’re sending someone to the next city over or a country on the other side of the world, make sure you know as much as possible about any danger your traveler may face. If working with reputable suppliers, you can use their tools to complete full risk assessments for destinations you’re considering.

It’s sensible to consult the embassy or governmental advice for your own country and – if they are travelling abroad – the country in question to see what measures are in place to tackle coronavirus. This may mean booking accommodation two weeks’ ahead of any meetings to ensure that there is sufficient time for your traveler to quarantine.
There are also general risks that travelers may have to run. Be aware the likelihood of traffic incidents, scams, fraud, pickpockets, violent crime and muggings, terrorism or the risk of diseases other than COVID-19.
Make sure you brief your traveler on the dangers they may face and offer them advice on precautions to take. This includes recommendations for how to conduct themselves in foreign cultures, particularly with the ever-changing COVID-19 guidance that will vary country to country.

2. Expect the unexpected

Even if you think a situation is incredibly unlikely, prepare for it anyway. You might not be able to stop issues arising, but with proper planning, you can prevent them becoming much larger crises. Keeping your bookings in the same place – through one trusted partner – can help you to maintain oversight over any issues and react quickly if necessary.
Ensure you have thought of all remote eventualities, such as the loss of a passport, injury or illness, or emergency situations such as being abducted.
Depending on your travel partner, you may have emergency procedures in place to ensure the safety of your traveler. It’s sensible to carry out risk assessments ahead of travel and make sure that there are transport and healthcare options available at very short notice, should anything go wrong.
The better you plan, the safer your traveler will be and feel. Particularly during this current situation, your travelers might be more anxious about their journey. Providing details of emergency protocols will help to ease their mind.

3. Take every possible precaution

When it comes to fulfilling your duty of care, there is no such thing as being over-prepared. While it’s not possible to protect your traveler from the risks of contracting COVID-19 entirely, there are a number of ways you can help to reduce the overall risk. These include:

  • Making sure your traveler is equipped with PPE, such as face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer
  • Make sure they have a reliable form of communication, such as a mobile phone
  • Give them the contact details of any services they may need, such as the emergency services, their nearest embassy, and you – the travel manager
  • Know the local laws of the area they are traveling to (for instance, with regards to social distancing), and communicate these with them
  • Check to see if they need to be quarantined for an extended period on arrival, and book accommodation with this in mind
  • If possible, pre-arrange payment for accommodation or ensure that there are touchless payment options to reduce physical contact and time spent waiting in high-traffic hotel areas
  • Arrange their transport in a way that avoids extended periods outside
  • Make sure they have insurance which includes specific clauses covering coronavirus
  • Make sure you have a ‘Plan B’ for every situation, especially if your traveler has a medical emergency while on their trip
  • Make sure you can arrange alternative accommodation at short notice

Choose preferred travel partners to help manage your duty of care

By choosing travel booking solutions that include preferred partners, you will have a full overview of any data you might need to protect your traveler. You will also gain a clear oversight of where your travelers are located and when, helping you to stay in contact and provide thorough duty of care while they are on their journey. Good travel partners will provide all the details you need as part of your booking, putting you and your traveler’s minds at ease.