A traveler in an airport building looking at the sky

How to repatriate staff while minimizing risk

In Blog by Janin

Getting staff back to their home countries can be challenging during the COVID-19 crisis or other critical situations. Here’s how to fulfil your duty of care while repatriating staff.

In times of crisis, it is sometimes critical to repatriate your staff to avoid difficult situations. During the current coronavirus pandemic, many countries have called for their nationals to return home. In an ever-changing landscape and with each country setting its own rules, it can be difficult to know how to manage the situation safely.

As a travel manager, you need to be conscious of the changing rules for travelers under your care. For instance, many countries have implemented quarantine rules which may affect your traveler’s journey home, while some travelers may struggle to find flights going back to their home country.

There is a further risk if your staff is exposed to COVID-19 while traveling or if they develop symptoms after returning home. In these cases, you may need to help them seek medical care.

Here are a few things to be mindful of while fulfilling your duty of care while repatriating staff.

Consider what your staff wants

The first and most important thing to consider during the repatriation process is what is best for each member of staff individually.

Be mindful that while some employees may be urged to return to their home country, they could choose not to return because of the risks.

In the case of COVID-19 and other difficult circumstances, the risks may be higher in some countries than in others. It is advisable to check whether the risk of returning is higher than staying where they are currently located, even if it is they are planning to return to their country of origin. 

In many cases, it may be better to wait until the crisis has eased before trying to relocate people. Following government and international body guidance on best practice is advisable, as is consulting your travel insurer.

Mitigate leakage

As a matter of urgency, communicate promptly with your employees to alert them about company policy regarding repatriation. This is to reduce the risk of leakage and keep staff safe.

If your employees book their own travel or accommodation, they may expose themselves to health or other risks. Employees may also inadvertently breach the laws of the territories they are leaving or traveling to.

Be aware of local laws and quarantine measures

During the COVID-19 crisis and during other similar large-scale crises, many countries have taken measures to limit or prevent the entry of travelers. These measures may include imposing a quarantine after arrival or a complete ban on travel into the country.

Before sending a traveler to any country, you should read the local authority’s advice to understand their policies regarding travelers and emergency repatriation.

Organize a travel plan

Depending on where you are sending your travelers to and from, you may find it hard to book flights or other means of transport, as many routes have been reduced or canceled.

Where it is not possible to relocate a traveler immediately, you should prepare a contingency plan to help them complete their journey at a later date. For instance, this may mean caring for them until they travel by providing ongoing accommodation in their current location.

Prepare a duty of care plan for quarantine

If your traveler needs to quarantine upon arrival in their country of origin, you should take the necessary steps to help them do this.

Make sure they have a safe place to isolate. If they cannot do this at home, you may need to find accommodation that will accept them. If these options are not available, the local government may have dedicated quarantine centers they can use.

While your traveler is in quarantine, you should make sure they have all the essentials they need such as sustenance, access to facilities, entertainment and a means of communication.

Be ready in case of emergency

At any point during the repatriation process and while the traveler is in your care, there is a chance they may experience difficulties, such as becoming unwell or being held up by unforeseen circumstances.

For the current crisis, if they are exposed to COVID-19 or start displaying symptoms, you should be ready to provide care while they self-isolate for 7–14 days. This includes being prepared to move them to a medical facility if necessary.

If they require urgent medical care for another reason, you should be mindful of their access to healthcare. Some health services in the world are experiencing difficulties because of COVID-19, which could limit the traveler’s ability to receive medical attention.

For this and other emergencies, it is advisable to make yourself and your traveler(s) aware of any issues they may encounter, such as illness of civil unrest, and give them the tools they need to find help in an emergency.

Prepare the necessary insurance

When considering an insurance policy for your traveler, take care to choose one that provides specific clauses related to COVID-19 and other issues that they may encounter, such as civil unrest.

Be particularly mindful of the fact you may need to extend the dates of your insurance to cover the period your traveler is waiting to leave their current location, or while they are quarantining after returning to their home country.

Checklist: fulfilling your duty of care during repatriation

Here’s a run-down of things to be aware of while repatriating staff during COVID-19.

  • Check the local laws of the regions the traveler is leaving and traveling to
  • Communicate the company policy regarding repatriation as early as possible in order to reduce leakage
  • Be prepared to support the employee while they are waiting to travel
  • Be prepared also to support the employee if they need to quarantine after arrival
  • Devise a contingency plan in case repatriation is not possible at this time
  • Understand and prepare for the risks they may encounter while traveling, and take out the necessary level of insurance
  • Have a plan to help the traveler access healthcare and other emergency services

Working with HRS helps you manage risk while providing the greatest duty of care. Discover how we make booking corporate travel simple and more efficient.