Experts: U.K. Companies Must Protect Employees Traveling Abroad

By Matthew Harwood

Companies doing business in the United Kingdom should review and strengthen their employee safety and travel policies or risk elevated liability under a new British law governing negligent deaths, according to global intelligence and business resiliency firm iJet Intelligent Risk Systems.

Late last week, the U.K. Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 went into effect. According to an iJet white paper, the law revises the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974 (HSWA), which held companies liable for gross negligence that led to employee injury or death. Under the old law, a company could be convicted of grossly negligent manslaughter, only if a company executive, or "directing mind," was found guilty of the offense.

Due to the changing nature of business organizations, the new law abandons the single-actor standard:

There was also recognition that, except in small companies, top decisions and policies in today's organizations are driven by multiple executives. This makes it unlikely that any senior individual would be personally responsible for gross negligence.

The new law should aid prosecution, and reflects the old one's limited success. Thirty-four cases of gross negligence were brought against companies under the HSWA between 1992 and 2005. At least six  companies were convicted, iJet found.

The change in law, iJet says, "provides a more effective means for prosecuting the worst corporate failures to protect their people."

Any business operating in the United Kingdom is liable under the law, regardless of whether it is registered there.

If businesses take the necessary steps to protect their people, however, they have nothing to worry about, iJet says. "Remember, the legislation is being enacted to punish the worst offenders. The U.K. government expects prosecutions ... to be rare, as an organization's conduct must fall below 'what could have been reasonably expected' before it will initiate a case.'"

iJet recommends businesses conduct self-assessments to ensure proper safety policies that do not raise liabilities. The firm advises a company insure itself for travel-related risks. It should also develop a corporate travel policy and do the necessary research to ensure that its airline, hotel, and ground transport vendors are reputable and have good safety records.

iJet also advises businesses supply their traveling employees with destination intelligence before, during, and after a trip. An employee knowing the inherent risks—security, health, weather, transportation— of a particular location is more likely to remain safe and thus reduce risk and liability.

If something does go wrong, iJet recommends companies establish a global hotline so the traveling employee or family members can easily access services such as medical assistance, security evacuations, or response to crimes including kidnapping and intellectual property theft.

A company should also ensure that its policies reflect the same "standard of care" as other competitors in its industry. "If peer employers are capturing itineraries for traveler tracking, providing pre-trip information, keeping travelers and expatriates aware of new risks and providing emergency assistance support," the report says, "any employer who is not doing the same is putting itself at risk."

Finally, companies must make sure employees know its travel risk management policies. They should be constantly reminded of them through e-mails, newsletters, posters, among other outlets, so that they are "'baked in' to the travel booking and confirmation process."



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