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Duty of care is the obligation to ensure the safety of your employees or clients while they are under your supervision.  

Although the specific definition may vary depending on the situation, fulfilling your duty of care, whether as an employer or a fiduciary, involves prioritizing the well-being of those who depend on you. 

What is Duty of Care in the Workplace?

In the context of the workplace, corporate duty of care is a company’s obligation to protect its employees from undue risks. Employers should take all steps within reason to promote the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees wherever they are in the world. If an employee is traveling for business purposes, the company he or she works for has a moral and ethical duty not to cause or fail to prevent any physical or psychological harm to the employee. 

The Importance of having a Duty of Care Program

From a legal standpoint, the employer must fulfill these responsibilities as they relate to personal injury and negligence claims. An employer can be in breach of their duty of care by failing to do everything reasonable in the circumstances to keep their employees safe from harm.  

The overall responsibilities of duty of care for employees are rooted in several laws and regulations, including:  

  • Occupational health and safety laws: Employers are often bound by law to provide a safe and healthy work environment, which includes identifying and mitigating potential hazards. 
  • Employment contracts: Employment contracts may include clauses specifying the employer's duty of care towards employees, such as through workplace safety.  
  • Common law duty: In many jurisdictions, there is a common law duty of care that employers owe to their employees. This duty may require employers to take reasonable steps to prevent harm, provide proper training, and address any known risks in the workplace. 
  • Workplace policies: Employers often develop and implement specific workplace policies that outline their commitment to the safety and well-being of employees. Regulatory compliance: Employers need to comply with relevant workplace safety regulations and standards.  

Yet, despite the existence of duty of care in case law, there are no laws or regulations that stipulate exactly what measures employers must take to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable precautions to promote the safety and wellbeing of their employees. 

The benefits of a duty of care policy

You may not be legally required to have a duty of care policy in place, but having one is a great way to avoid moral and legal quandaries that often arise in regular operations. On top of that, it’s simply good business practice.  

Benefits of such a program for your organization can include:  

  • Risk mitigation: By identifying and addressing potential risks and hazards, a duty of care program helps mitigate the likelihood of accidents and incidents. This proactive approach not only safeguards employees but also minimizes the organization's exposure to legal and financial risks. 
  • Employee well-being: A duty of care program demonstrates a genuine commitment to the health and safety of employees. This not only creates a secure work environment but also enhances overall well-being, contributing to higher job satisfaction and morale.
  • Productivity and engagement: When employees feel cared for and supported, their engagement and productivity levels tend to rise. A positive workplace culture, driven by a duty of care program, fosters a sense of loyalty and commitment among team members.
  • Enhanced reputation: Organizations with a strong duty of care program build a positive reputation within their industry and community. This reputation extends to clients, partners, and stakeholders, showcasing a commitment to ethical and responsible business practices. 

Who is responsible for duty of care?

An employer’s duty of care policy is built and upheld by many people within a business, including the business owner, the human resources department, safety officers, legal and compliance teams, and team managers.  

Collaboration among these roles is essential to create a comprehensive approach to duty of care. It's not just the responsibility of one person but involves a collective effort across different functions within the organization. 

A tailored approach to corporate duty of care

In today’s hyperconnected world, an event in a distant country can have lasting ripple effects across the globe and more importantly, your organization. Terrorism, disease, crime, and natural disasters know no borders. Similarly, a company’s legal and moral obligations extend to employees that work or travel abroad. The question then arises: “What steps should employers take to fulfill their duty of care in the workplace?” Truthfully, the answer is that it depends. 

That’s because no two assignments are the same. Each business trip or expatriate assignment carries its own unique set of physical risks. The risk factors are dependent on two criteria: the “who” and the "where.” There are different security challenges associated with a CEO traveling to Switzerland as compared to an engineer on permanent assignment in the oilfields of Libya. Similarly, the set risks that accompany travel to the Philippines in October are different than those of travel to Russia in February. A country’s political, socio-economic, and geographic environment must all be considered when assessing the physical risk of travel and the requisite mitigation strategies.      

Therefore, your company will need the capacity to meet your duty of care requirements across a wide spectrum of situations. Functions of keeping your team safe may include:  

  • Threat monitoring across all business locations 
  • Pre-trip risk assessments that prepare employees for all possibilities 
  • The ability to maintain consistent communication anywhere in the world 
  • Real-time, 24/7 support for any need, from medical issues to security threats 

Global Guardian’s Duty of Care program is designed to protect your traveling or expatriate employees from harm and insulate your company from legal risk. Our duty is to execute your duty. Global Guardian can seamlessly integrate with your existing human resources or travel support team to provide tailored duty of care solutions to protect your employees both at home and abroad, with on-the-ground teams in over 130 countries and a 24/7 operations center for immediate respond. Global Guardian can also deliver country intelligence reporting and expert advice to establish and implement global corporate-wide travel security programs that adhere to the recognized standard of ISO 31030.  

Find out more about how our team can support your duty of care in the workplace. For assistance, complete the form below or call our 24/7 Operations Center at +1 703.566.9463. 

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