08 June 2022

Planning a Safe Return to Business Travel

Submitted by Teresa Settas

Employer’s Duty of Care in a new travel landscape

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the world of work on many levels and drastically curtailed business travel in the wake of lockdowns across the globe. As economies and borders open up again and a semblance of ‘normal’ operations returns, businesses must navigate the evolving travel risks for employees who are visiting colleagues, clients, operations and managing projects internationally.

A 2021 Chubb poll of business travellers around the world, found that:

  • There was a 68% reduction in business travel spend since April 2020.
  • 81% believe they miss valuable clues from body language they get when sitting across from someone in a meeting.
  • 74% of respondents said that the inability to travel affected their ability to generate new business and sales.
  • There was an optimistic feeling that there would be a 38% growth in business travel during 2022. However, 82% of respondents believed that the pandemic would have a lasting effect on business travel.

Duty of care in the new world of work

Global travel drives economies across the world.  However, the return to business travel holds a number of new and evolving risks that businesses need to adapt to in order to maintain a robust risk management framework. This is known as the ‘Duty of Care’ – the legal and moral responsibility of the employer to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees in the workplace and while travelling for business. Fundamentally, this safeguards the primary business-critical assets of any organisation:  its people. It also helps to ensure business continuity and compliance, protects against reputational damage and potentially costly legal issues. 

As the post-pandemic workforce decentraliseswith more flexible, mobile working opportunities, businesses must consider various travel risk factors, including:

  • Cybercrime– risks posed by travelling employees accessing unsecure networks in airport terminals, hotels, coffee shops and so on.
  • Infectious diseases–compliance with all controls in airports, planes, public transportation and even boardrooms is just one aspect. If an employee gets sick and needs hospitalisation, this can be compounded if there is a lack of adequate facilities.
  • Natural disasters– The frequency of natural disasters such as wildfires, typhoons and earthquakes are increasingly playing a role in the travel risk landscape.
  • Petty crime– Business travellers are often targets of crimes such as pick-pocketing or items stolen out of hotel rooms.
  • Civil unrest– Civil uprisings or protests can be disruptive, sudden and potentially dangerous.
  • Travel scams– Being duped by scammers and arriving at a hotel that doesn’t have a record of your booking, or worse, does not exist. Airport and hotel transfers also need to be planned and managed meticulously. Travel scams are a risk even for the savviest of travellers.
  • Adhering to travel requirements– Having the correct travel documentation, vaccination records, pre-flight and post-flight COVID-19 tests and knowing what restrictions are in place in the destination country. 

While it may seem daunting to manage all the diverse risks of travel, it is important to have a comprehensive risk management plan coupled with business travel insurance (that includes COVID-19 coverages) and is designed to offer solutions for potentially challenging scenarios. 

From a practical point of view, it is important to find a solution to address medical emergencies, safety and security issues as well as offer hands-on guidance prior to any travel that stems from in-country knowledge and expertise. Having a single solution that offers all-encompassing support for pre-, during and post travel is ideal.  From the employee’s perspective, it is about having a single, 24/7 contact point for any and all assistance they may need, no matter where they are and what the emergency. 

Chubb’s Travel SmartApp is a comprehensive guidance tool developed to help employers better fulfil their duty of care obligations. From a risk mitigation perspective, it provides pre-travel risk training with competency testing, designed to highlight the risks and practical solutions to staying safe and secure. It is a handy smart phone app that gives easy and direct access to medical and security assistance and includes a panic button. From an employer perspective, the Chubb Travel Smart App provides an online dashboard that gives an instant and complete summary of travelling employees with location tracking in the event of an emergency.

It is equally important to review and understand allthe terms and conditions of the travel insurance policy before restartingbusiness travel,knowing exactlywhat the policy response willbe in events suchaslockdownsand medical emergencies. Share practical informationwith employees so they are prepared and feel reassured and ensure that your overall companytravel policy is keepingpacewith risk developments.

A reputable broker that specialises in business travel insurance and risk management will be an invaluable asset in guiding your return to business travel - one that understands not only the business travel market, but the ethos of your business and its approach to employee safety and wellbeing.

Companies can benefit from partnering with experienced business travel insurers and brokers to help protect their staff from adverse outcomes. The range of available products and added-value services help companies to significantly upscale their duty of care. The role of assistance and insurance providers is to help ensure there is a strong risk management framework to protect a company’s greatest asset, its employees.

For more information about our business travel offering, visit https://www.chubb.com/za-en/businesses/by-category-accident-health-business-travel.html

Chubb Insurance South Africa Limited is a (Re)Insurer licensed to conduct non-life insurance and reinsurance business. Chubb is an authorized Financial Services Provider (FSP: 27176).