With the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, many organizations are seeking guidance on how to best protect their employees in the region. The majority of questions have been about the risk of travelling into the affected and nearby countries: Is it safe to travel? Should there be suspension of employee travel to certain countries? If so, for how long?

Three alternatives exist for travel policy as current choices for organizations doing business in the geography impacted by Ebola. Global Rescue recommends evaluation of the best course of action for your organization. 

Option #1: No restrictions on travel

This choice assumes your employees can aggressively and consistently adhere to the recommended avoidance and protection practices recommended by the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also assumes your employees will monitor alerts and other travel warnings in their region, and they will be able to take action to adjust their travel and movement as needed to minimize further risk.

There are indeed many organizations and corporations which are currently employing this strategy (within the affected areas), particularly if their work is mission-critical, and unable to be interrupted. 

Risks to consider with this option:

  • Travel may become limited or restricted further, i.e., employees may not be able to move out of the country when they need or want to.  
  • Limited access to safe and adequate health care in local or nearby facilities. There is no way to guarantee that a facility will not have Ebola cases in house. Transmission within the hospital setting is a real concern in the affected areas.

Option #2: Restriction of travel to business critical

The second option is a curtailment of travel to business critical trips only. The CDC has recommended against all non-essential travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This strategy prohibits nonessential travel to these areas, as well as recommends strong consideration for removing personnel currently in these areas. 

An organization’s management would need to be able to define what activities and projects are “business critical.” Does your business require on-the-ground presence? Can the activity be deferred until the outbreak is over?

Global Rescue has a number of clients that are adopting this strategy for the three affected areas as well as Nigeria.  

Option #3: Banning travel

The highest level of protection for employees is a complete ban on corporate travel to one or more of the affected countries. This approach also includes consideration of facility shutdown and potential removal of all employees currently in the named country.

While providing the highest level of protection against possible exposure to the Ebola virus, this option severely limits an organization’s ability to continue business-as-usual in these areas, and may require shifts in project timelines and resource allocation. This kind of restriction can be disruptive, but is sometimes chosen in high-risk situations.

There are a number of corporations and/or organizations that have adopted this strategy in response to the current Ebola outbreak, despite the disruption to business activity. For example, the Peace Corps has temporarily removed its volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Only an organization’s management can decide what is their best approach given the risks to their employees. Global Rescue is available to provide guidance, information, training and support to our members regarding travel to West Africa and other countries of concern. Contact us for assistance developing your corporate travel advisory policy and additional recommendations on employee education and pre-travel procedures.