Domestic travel risks: What does this mean for duty of care?

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3 min read

JOHANNESBURG – When taxi strikes hit Cape Town, they left travellers stranded—without means to get to or from the airport. It was a jarring reminder that emergencies can happen close to home, too. According to a recent survey by software company Everbridge, only 24% of companies surveyed have a “Plan B” in place for travel risk management for situations like this.

In corporate travel circles, the term “duty of care” often evokes images of international flights and exotic locations. But what about the daily commuter, the employee flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg for work? A contingency plan for domestic business travellers isn’t a luxury; it’s an absolute requirement.

“The responsibility for the well-being of employees doesn’t end at city limits or country borders. Domestic travel equally deserves meticulous planning and risk mitigation,” says Bonnie Smith, GM of Corporate Traveller.

Risks Beyond the Taxi Stand

The August taxi strikes put a spotlight on the challenges and risks associated with ground transportation. But this isn’t a once-off challenge. Corporate travellers using ride-hailing services also face hazards. Recent reports by the South African Police Service have documented a surge in late-night attacks on passengers by drivers.

“If your corporate travel policy is leaning heavily on ride-hailing services, it’s time to re-evaluate,” advises Smith. “Diversify your transport options through arrangements like pre-scheduled shuttles, partnerships with reliable taxi companies, and car rentals.”

Crafting Policies for Every Traveller

A generic, one-size-fits-all approach to corporate travel can also expose companies to a host of unanticipated risks, Smith continues. Travel policies created with the ‘average’ traveller in mind may overlook the unique needs of women or LGBTQ+ employees, for example.

To address this, a comprehensive duty-of-care strategy should be tailored to cater to each employee’s specific requirements. For example, it is crucial to vet accommodation options to ensure that they offer robust security and are also LGBTQ+ friendly.

While smaller guesthouses – often the only option for domestic business travellers conducting work out of metros – may promise a more personalised experience, they can fall short in crucial areas such as security protocols and backup power systems.

“Small doesn’t have to mean risky,” Smith reassures. By collaborating with a trustworthy Travel Management Company (TMC), businesses can evaluate potential risks and receive guidance in selecting secure accommodation options.

Smith offers the following advice to improve the safety of your domestic business travellers:

Pre-Travel Risk Assessments: Don’t just inform—educate your employees on specific risks related to the area they are travelling to.

Travel Policies and Guidelines: Your travel policies should be explicit, offering clear, actionable steps for handling everything from medical crises to security threats. This is your company’s playbook; ensure everyone knows it inside out.

Real-Time Monitoring and Communication: Utilise travel management software that allows for real-time monitoring of employees’ locations. Couple this with a 24/7 hotline to ensure that help is always just a phone call away – a service offered by Corporate Traveller, adds Smith.

Emergency Response Plans: Have a robust emergency response plan in place and train your employees on how to execute it.

Insurance and Healthcare: Comprehensive insurance plans are a requirement. Prepare a verified list of local healthcare providers and ensure employees know where to go in a medical emergency.

Vehicle and Accommodation Safety: Mandate the use of vetted transportation and accommodation options.

Regular Updates and Feedback: Keep your team informed of any changes to risk levels where they are and always seek their feedback post-trip for continuous improvement.

“Upholding duty of care is not just best practice, but a hallmark of a leading organisation. It protects your team and boosts your company’s reputation as an employer that highly values and cares for its people,” concludes Smith.

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email dorine@bigambitions.co.za.