A little over a year ago, most corporate managers discovered that their insurance policies did not cover pandemics. The COVID-19 global health crisis has prompted companies to rethink their duty of care mechanisms. Here's a close look at some important questions that companies should be considering in order to keep their people safe, whether they are working from home or halfway around the world.
It has become fashionable for companies to throw around the term “duty of care” without a proper understanding of what that actually entails. Collins English Dictionary describes duty of care as “the legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are in your care, using your services, or exposed to your activities.” The past year has put a spotlight on failures in systems and underscored the urgent need for corporations to better understand how to provide duty of care to protect their employees from undue harm. As the world begins to emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns—and travel starts to pick up—it is all the more imperative for corporations to address this challenge.
Most corporations assume they have duty of care covered just because they provide their employees tracking services and alerts overlaid with an insurance product. As has been made clear over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, this approach is inadequate during a major crisis. In fact, most insurance policies did not cover a pandemic.
Another flawed assumption is that U.S. embassies around the world are equipped to help U.S. citizens in times of a crisis. The truth is, embassies in foreign countries are not equipped, manned, or trained to protect, care for, or evacuate large numbers of people. This is why early in the pandemic, embassies struggled to evacuate U.S. citizens stranded in foreign countries.
questions to consider
Duty of care has tangible implications for every company, of any size. It requires recognizing that your organization has a legal and moral obligation to keep its people safe at the workplace and while on business travel.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of streamlining companywide emergency communications that can not only inform and better protect employees, but also boost morale and productivity during periods of remote work.
As corporations rethink their duty of care mechanisms, they should start by considering the following questions:
- Are your existing platforms between insurance, vendors, and providers coherent and appropriate to meet often unforeseeable needs during a crisis?
- Where, when, and why have these systems failed in the past?
- To what extent can (or should) you rely solely on technology to meet your duty of care obligations?
Ensuring Proper Duty of Care
Once these questions have been answered, companies should consider the following steps to better provide duty of care:
- Review your policies. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit a little over a year ago many HR directors were surprised to learn that their insurance policies did not cover a global health crisis. Companies should pay close attention to the fine print of their insurance policies to better understand coverage and, equally importantly, restrictions in those policies.
- Acknowledge shortcomings. Companies should review the technologies they rely on during a crisis. Is a tracking app sufficient to keep your personnel safe in a foreign country on the other side of the world during a crisis? Oftentimes, the answer to that question is no. A better understanding is needed of what technology can do for us, as well as its limitations.
- Make the change. All of us in corporate headquarters should take a hard look at our travel policies, platforms, and vendors. If any of these have failed—or underperformed—during recent crises, serious consideration should be given to making a change so companies can better provide duty of care.
A failure to provide proper duty of care does not only create legal issues for a company, it can also adversely impact employee morale. A complex set of factors need to be considered when devising a duty of care that works. A business trip to Paris, for example, is very different from one to Mexico.
HOW GLOBAL GUARDIAN CAN HELP
Global Guardian provides bespoke duty of care services by integrating seamlessly with a company’s existing security, human resources or travel support team. Our team, which includes security professionals with years of experience, delivers country intelligence reporting and expert advice on formulating travel security programs. Our services include:
- Duty of Care: Our emergency response network, which includes a 24x7 crisis response platform and teams in 130+ countries, helps clients meet their duty of care needs before, during, and after a crisis.
- Global Guardian’s Air Ambulance membership program provides air medical services to members anywhere in the world at any time. If our members become sick or injured while traveling, we fly them to their hospital of choice at no extra cost. Separate and specific to the pandemic, our team has partnerships with specialized aircraft equipped to safely transport COVID-19 positive patients.
- Kidnap and Ransom Services: We offer assistance in the event of a kidnapping, abduction, or extortion. Global Guardian’s team of professionals handles victim recovery, including managing negotiations, liaising with law enforcement agencies, briefing victim families and coordinating all necessary details.
By proactively taking measures to fulfill duty of care obligations, companies can protect their people and their bottom line.
STANDING BY TO SUPPORT
The Global Guardian team is standing by to support your security requirements. To learn more about our Duty of Care membership and other customized security services, complete the form below or call us at + 1 (703) 566-9463.