Managing travel risk for mobile employees

White Papers 28 Oct 2015

PART A - Travel risk management and Australian legislation

Business travel, whether international or domestic, exposes employees to higher levels of risk. Away from the familiarity of home travellers can be put into situations that expose them to a range of health, safety and security hazards. This increased level of risk for travelling employees, heightens the corporate liability of employers that have a legal and moral duty of care to their staff. Faced with the pressure to comply with industry guidelines, legislation, budgets and client expectations, corporate leaders are being urged to take a company-wide and strategic approach to travel risk management.

Many countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, UK and the USA have some form of employer duty of care legislation in place. Complying with Duty of Care obligations at a basic level means that employers must protect the health, safety and security of an employee wherever they work, so far as practically possible.

In Australia there is harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation in place across most Australian jurisdictions. WHS legislation makes managers accountable for the health and safety of their employees regardless of whether they are working in Australia or overseas. This legislation provides for civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance and is the reason why companies must have adequate travel risk management plans and procedures in place.

In recent times liability has shifted from just that of a business or organisation, to that of its managers and decision makers. In practical terms, this has meant that there is less latitude for managers or decision makers to hide behind the line of 'company policy' as they now have a shared obligation to ensure the health, safety, security of their corporate travellers.

Summary of Legislation Requirements

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations), the duties of a person conducting business or undertaking (PCBU) and an officer’s due diligence obligations in respect to managing workers overseas are identical to those onshore. A ‘workplace’ is defined under Section 8 of the WHS Act, to be a place where work is carried out for a PCBU and includes any place where a worker goes or is likely to be, while at work.

Under section 19 of the WHS Act, a PCBU must do what is 'reasonably practicable' to ensure a worker’s health and safety. The level of influence or direction a PCBU has over a worker will affect what they can practically do to meet this duty of care in any given situation. In addition, a PCBU must ensure that work carried out as part of the business or undertaking does not put other people at risk.

What does 'reasonably practicable' mean?

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ is used as the legislatively required Work Health and Safety standard for duty holders to meet in WHS jurisdictions.

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ is defined in the WHS Act (section 18) to mean that which is or was reasonably able to be done, taking into account and weighing up all matters relevant to the circumstances in which the risk was considered, including:

  • The likelihood of the relevant hazards or risk occurring
  • The degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk
  • What the person knows about the hazard or risk and the ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  • The availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk.

After assessing the extent of the risk and ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, duty holders must also consider whether the cost of eliminating or minimising is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Part B - Key process areas for travel risk management analysis