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COVID-19 & Examining Your Legal Duty of Care


June 18, 2020
Categories: Safety, Security and Intelligence

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the future of work-related travel. Experts, employers and workers are looking at duty of care through a different lens as they prepare to return to domestic and international business trips.

What is duty of care? According to Jeffrey Ment, managing partner of The Ment Law Group, P.C., in Hartford, Connecticut, “duty of care generally requires that every employer  provide employment that is safe for the employees, supplying and using safeguards and devices and doing every reasonable thing necessary to protect the life, health and safety of their employees.”

The pandemic is a reminder for companies — including travel operators, governments, and educational institutions – to take a look at plans to protect employee travelers.

The pandemic doesn’t change your duty of care obligations, but it certainly raises awareness among C-suite executives, senior management teams, HR professionals, union leaders, government agencies and employees to examine the rigor of their organization’s current duty of care capabilities.

Why Duty of Care Is Important

You may think the probability of a business traveler being subjected to an illness or injury is low. The opposite is true. Sixty five percent of travelers to the developing world report a medical problem during their international trip, according to the 2019 International Travel Health Guide.

The U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs reports more than 9,000 U.S. citizens suffered fatalities from non-natural causes during the latest recorded 10-year span, or nearly 1,000 per year.

There have been significant court decisions based on duty of care responsibilities. For example, one lawsuit by the surviving family a Lucent Technologies/AT&T employee who died subsequent to a surgical procedure in Saudi Arabia and another by a Hotchkiss School student who contracted encephalitis while on a school-sponsored trip to China. In both cases, the court upheld the claims and led to substantial legal costs, sizable monetary awards and damage to the company’s reputation.

Failing to meet your duty of care requirements could mean disaster for your organization and its brand.

Seven Elements of a Duty of Care Policy

As you evaluate and update your duty of care policy, make sure it includes these seven elements:

  • Employees responsible for fulfilling the organization’s duty of care
  • An assessment of the organization’s travel risk profile
  • A risk management plan
  • A crisis response plan
  • An education or training program for employees and travel service providers
  • A method, perhaps technology, to track and assess incidents
  • A post-travel feedback mechanism to help refine risk management and crisis response plans

“It is equally important that an organization’s leadership learn the travel laws, regulations, standards and prevailing practices that are relevant to the organization, type of traveler, activities and destinations,” Ment said. “Doing so can insulate the organization from multi-million-dollar judgments and significant harm to the organization’s reputation and brand.”

Access Duty of Care Expertise

Instituting or reviewing a duty of care policy is not an easy task. In most cases, commercial and non-commercial organizations lack the knowledge, experience and staff to fulfill their duty of care responsibilities.

Getting professional guidance from travel risk planning experts, medical and security specialists, evacuation providers and outside legal counsel is wisest.

To learn more, download “Legal Duty of Care: Traveler Safety,” a white paper written by The Ment Law Group.

Global Rescue offers duty of care support to businesses, NGOs, academic institutions and governments worldwide. Services are scalable and customizable to the unique needs of clients. Click here to connect with us about meeting your duty of care.


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