Corporate travel challenges amid COVID and beyond

Ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis presents huge challenges for corporate travel. In some countries, infections are falling, while in other regions, mutated viruses are undergoing a rapid spread. Other additional hazards are coming to the fore in some regions with often severe consequences.

The safety requirements of travelling employees have increased considerably, and the employer's duty of care is much more important than before the pandemic.

As part of its COVID response, HDI Global recently launched a Corporate Travel insurance solution which enables companies to provide comprehensive support and protection to employees on business trips via 24/7 emergency assistance, a security package and an insurance policy for potential financial loss. Corporate Travel supports companies in fulfilling their duty of care (risk analysis, security instruction, reconnaissance, labour law, and social security requirements) amid constantly changing dynamics.

“COVID-19 has exerted a profound change in behaviour on corporate travel,” said Christoph Schulz, head of the group personal accident line at industrial insurer HDI Global. “In 2020, the number of journeys fell substantively. In spite of this, emergencies arising on foreign trips remain a critical topic. Most significantly, we saw a disproportionate level of medical emergencies and lots of security emergencies.”

To deal with the challenges, HDI Global recommends developing company-specific travel safety guidelines, and use them to outline a range of prevention measures that have to be taken for specific country risk categories. They also advise employers to inform staff about the support services available from work before they leave on business trips, and highlight the individual duties and obligations incumbent on employees going on business trips.

A significantly underestimated risk is represented by quarantines after contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 either already on the aircraft or shortly after arriving in the destination country. This is because tracking of contacts and particularly passenger lists is working very well in most countries (even in less industrialised regions). A business trip scheduled to take three days quickly turns into a compulsory two-week quarantine stay for the contact persons.

Tips when making business trips (Source: HDI Global)

In 2021, HDI perceives five major risks to business trips:

• Catching infections while travelling (local suburban transport, rail, flights)

• Catching infections at the destination in a hotel or with a customer (from personnel or guests)

• Catching infections during leisure time (primarily when shopping)

• Unwanted periods of quarantine due to contact with an infected person (eg. already on the plane)

• Incorrect documents (negative test, proof of urgency, visa) in order to provide a legitimate reason for entry to a country (out of lack of awareness)

HDI Global recommends that companies should take the following rules into account when they are making plans for business trips:

• Make use of a professional country database which presents the overall risk, information on entering a country in relation to the coronavirus, entry restrictions, local hygiene rules, other medical risks and security risks

• Get in contact with the chambers of foreign trade and commerce of your target countries and clarify possible exceptions for entry

• The Reopen EU app provides a good overview of the options available for entering countries in Europe

• Set up your own coronavirus testing station or cooperate with a company you are on good terms with, or at least two laboratories in your region. These centres should also be open at the weekend (for travellers returning home on a Friday evening)

• Give your employees easily comprehensible conduct guidelines which are aligned with the chronology of the travel itinerary: measures before take-off, during the flight, on arrival, in the hotel, at the customer, during leisure time and on the return journey. Tips on hygiene in the hotel and at the customer are very important

• Duty of care is anchored in almost every legal system of the world. In Germany, briefings in accordance with the Articles 1-9 of the Industrial Safety Act should be put in place. In other words, personal risk assessment analyses should be carried out with the travellers before they depart. The US Tort Law or UK’s Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act punish failures to comply with labour law. France also is very sensible if employers do not assess and mitigate potential risks of business travellers. Occupational health advice is also an important part of this process when making arrangements for activities with particular special conditions relating to hygiene and climate.

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