„Employees should go on business trips again as soon as possible – and employers must fulfil their duty of care more than ever. Some companies had hardly done anything about this so far, this will now have to change.” Corinna Döpkens, Consultant for Travel management and guest author of Bleisure Traveller
The Corona pandemic has virtually paralysed the business travel activities of German companies since the beginning of 2020 – many employers have issued a general travel ban or only allow travel in justified exceptional cases. And even if the rising vaccination rate brings the first re-starts, quite a few companies want to permanently reduce their business travel activities compared to 2019, as numerous studies have been emphasising for months. But on a large scale, this is not a permanent solution! Various surveys of business enterprises and organisations/institutions show quite clearly that there is an urgent need for more business travel again.
Business travel is important for success
Business travel makes an important contribution to a positive economic development and is indispensable for the economy to take off. Face-to-face meetings create a completely different relationship of trust. And who doesn’t like to remember successful experiences in direct exchange?
Many employees have a growing desire to finally meet business partners and customers in person again. After many months in the home office with online meetings, digital conferences, virtual coffee breaks and Zoom after-work parties, the longing for analogue meetings is great. Finally, to have informal discussions again, to read from facial expressions and gestures what my counterpart thinks of my arguments. Digital communication can replace many things – but not everything. And if the company does not offer the possibility to extend the trip privately or to continue working remotely on site, then the employees are even more helped after Corona.
Going on a business trip “just like that” – that’s no longer possible
For better or worse, entry restrictions, hygiene regulations, new permit requirements and a lack of planning security will be with us for some time to come. Many companies see this as an obstacle, certainly also because they have hardly dealt with “safety and health when travelling” so far. The topic is really new territory – few dare to tackle it. German companies, for example, are below the global and European baseline in this area. This was the case before Corona and has not changed for many employers.
But what if, as now, travel increases again? Do you then send employees off without having taken precautions? Not a good idea! Because employers have a duty of care towards their employees – even when it comes to business trips (derived from §§ 241 para. 2 and 617-619 BGB). And apart from legal requirements – especially at this time you want to give your team a good feeling when travelling. Nothing but a good feeling.
Check lists for safety travel
How can you proceed here now? Create a checklist to get a quick overview. Important questions in this context are:
Is there a central responsibility for health and safety?
Is there an approval process depending on the respective security situation?
Do employees receive country information, health advice, behavioural recommendations and checklists?
What means of communication do employees have during the trip should an incident occur?
It is also essential to check the existing business travel insurances – especially under the aspect that insurance providers have adapted their products to the “new reality” and thus sometimes additional insurances have to be taken out. There are very big differences here, and you have to read the policy very carefully to find out, for example, that the insurance does not apply in times of a pandemic.
Am I insured if I fall ill with Covid-19 abroad?
Is insurance cover available if I have to involuntarily extend my trip beyond the insured date due to Covid-19 (quarantine, ban on leaving the country, cancellation of the return flight) and then fall ill?
Will the costs for a Covid 19 test be covered if I fall ill myself or if I come into contact with a person who has tested positive? And what does travelling to risk areas mean for my health insurance cover?
A check-up for safe travel is not witchcraft. It just needs to be addressed, because it is indispensable for a hopefully soon re-start in business travel management.
Corinna Döpkens …
has been surprised and shocked time and again during her consultancy work by how many companies do not take the issue of duty of care seriously. Until now, there was apparently little reason for this, but Corona has fundamentally changed the situation. The travel management expert has already experienced this on many of her own current business trips and work assignment trips.
Photos: © iStock.com_Luza Studios, © iStock.com_elenaleonova, Döpkens