Business traveller: Duty of care

Big-data analysis can help protect travelling employees, wherever they are

Victoria DeBoon

Business travel has risen steadily over the past few years, and this growth trajectory is expected to continue. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) anticipates that global business travel spend will reach US$1.6 trillion by 2020. With global uncertainty also on the rise, businesses face incredible pressure to ensure the safety and security of their employees when they travel abroad.

As part of their duty-of-care requirements, businesses have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of their employees when they are travelling for business. These businesses need to be able to find and quickly communicate with their employees during a critical event like a medical emergency, natural disaster or political unrest.

While fulfilling duty of care can involve many organizational layers, including travel, security, human resources and legal departments, travel managers play a key role, according to a recent report from the GBTA Foundation. During a crisis, 71 per cent of travel managers are responsible for locating travellers and 63 per cent are responsible for providing incident reports on impacted travellers.

Travel managers expect they will play a significant role in fulfilling duty of care, but there’s a gap between company policy and employee awareness of policy, roles and responsibilities. The same report found that three in five travel managers rely on their travellers to contact them during times of crisis and uncertainty. Meanwhile, 58 per cent of travellers say they would contact their supervisor, not a travel manager, if in need of support or assistance due to an emergency or security situation.

Regardless, businesses have an opportunity to better protect their employees by adopting duty-of-care solutions that use big data to analyze travel data and pinpoint trends to give immediate and unparalleled visibility into employees during a crisis.

Still, businesses often struggle to get duty-of-care programs off the ground. For large organizations with dedicated travel managers, having many employees travelling at once can make it difficult to manage multiple itineraries and stay on top of monitoring for risk. And for small businesses, duty-of-care requirements can feel overwhelming. According to Business Travel Show’s 2017 forecast, companies identify duty of care as one of the top five challenges they face when it comes to business travel, second only to cutting costs.

The following strategies can help businesses efficiently and effectively implement duty-of-care policies and processes:

Bring in the right policy. Businesses should be looking to implement and actively enforce policies that cover safety, health and security, while also allowing for flexibility in certain circumstances so employees can easily adjust trip logistics while staying compliant and within policy. For example, should employees need to purchase last-minute tickets to redirect a trip and avoid a risk situation, having a system that enables users to quickly set authorizations can help facilitate this process.

Expand risk intelligence. Conduct regular risk assessments that can help your business understand and efficiently communicate relevant safety, health and security risks that may affect travelling employees, or even employees based in regions that may be considered at risk.

Gather location and itinerary information. Leverage the data you do have, such as travel itineraries and bookings, to help pinpoint employee locations when an incident happens. These itineraries can also help travel managers monitor for potential risk in destinations where they know an employee will be travelling.

Communicate with employees. Ensure you have tools and systems in place that allow you to effectively relay key information to employees, regardless of their location, and enable two-way communication. Ensure employees know the processes your business has developed for communication in the event of an incident, so they know whom they should contact if they are able.

Employee traveller safety is a significant priority and a growing challenge for companies around the world. Businesses should look to leverage the tools and solutions that can help them manage risk monitoring so travellers can trust that their employers are looking out for their safety.


Victoria DeBoon is a Vancouver-based director of sales at SAP Concur Canada. SAP Concur is the world leader in travel and spend management, offering businesses total visibility and greater control over spend.