Companies lack knowledge of their responsibilities

At SOS International, we believe that travel safety and security is the responsibility of the management. Unfortunately, far too often, we experience that companies and organisations are unprepared for the scope of their responsibility when employees travel abroad on business.

By Karin Tranberg, Executive Vice President, SOS International

In recent weeks, demonstrations and popular protests have developed into riots in Spain, Chile and Lebanon. We have seen unrest in Hong Kong, Paris and Ecuador. Riots, political unrest and terror have become part of the worldview with which companies must deal when sending employees abroad on business trips or posting them abroad.

To an ever-increasing extent, we trade and act on an international level, across borders, and this entails a growing need to dispatch employees. Statistics Denmark reports that, in 2018, Danes went on 3.6 million business trips.

This means that, on any one day, large companies may have several hundred employees travelling on business around the world. Employees for whose safety the employer is responsible – just like they are responsible for the working environment in the offices back home.

At SOS International, we believe that travel safety and security is the responsibility of the management. Unfortunately, far too often, we experience that companies and organisations are unprepared for the scope of their responsibility when employees travel abroad on business.

Duty of Care
We see the responsibility for employee safety and security abroad as a ”Duty of Care” – a concept covering the employer’s legal, moral and ethical responsibility for their employee’s safety and security. However, what does Duty of Care actually and concretely mean for a company planning to send three employees to Chile next week, to a location which is currently plagued by the worst unrest in 30 years?

In Denmark, we lack a clear answer to that question. Other countries have passed legislation or created national standards based on the Duty of Care principle, providing the companies with a number of concrete guidelines. In Denmark, it is, to a large extent, up to the companies to establish policies and create guidelines for how to ensure the safety and security of employees being sent abroad.

There are many indications that the meaning of the concept of Duty of Care is unclear to both companies and their employees: In a 2018 survey carried out on behalf of SOS International, more than 60 % of the respondents indicated that they did not know what telephone number to call if they were to require assistance when travelling on business. And they did not know whether their employer had a plan for critical situations.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv) proposes that a set of joint guidelines is set up to which Danish companies and organisations should adhere. SOS International can only applaud this. A national checklist has long been a wish of the risk management industry.

We propose that a national standard contains at least three key points:

  • Companies sending employees abroad must have a clear policy and procedures in place.
  • The company must have a precise idea of the location of their employees.
  • The employees and the management must have 24/7 access to safety advice.

A Danish Duty of Care standard would make companies’ task of fulfilling their responsibilities easier and clearer. It would make it safer for employees to go abroad to work. And it would establish that travel safety and security is the responsibility of the management.

Read also: Crisis, Risk & Security - Assistance to companies operating home and abroad, expats and business travellers

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