Safeguarding Global Mobility: Navigating Duty of Care Challenges Amidst Uncertainty

The global landscape is a complex tapestry of diverse cultures, regulatory frameworks, and, unfortunately, an increasing array of risks that can impact the safety of mobile employees. This complexity has spotlighted the crucial role of duty of care within global mobility policies. The article you are about to read aims to provide insights for international HR professionals and corporate relocation managers as they tackle the multifaceted challenges of ensuring the safety and security of their mobile workforce.

A Higher Standard for Employee Well-being

In an era marked by rapid geopolitical shifts and heightened security concerns, the traditional approach to employee care has evolved. Today, ensuring the well-being of a global workforce is not just a matter of policy; it’s a commitment to safeguarding the assets that truly enable global business operations—people.

The term “duty of care” encapsulates organisations’ broad responsibility to ensure their employees’ safety in all aspects of mobility, whether during international relocations or frequent business travel. It signifies a level of support beyond compliance, emphasising the active measures companies must take to foster a culture of preparedness and resilience among their mobile teams. Whether responding to natural disasters, navigating political unrest, or managing health crises, companies must be able to swiftly and safely relocate their employees when necessary.

Understanding Duty of Care in Global Mobility

Expatriates, international business travellers, and global assignees share a unique adventure as they represent their employers internationally. However, navigating unfamiliar territories, languages, and customs involves inherent risks employers must acknowledge and mitigate. Recent studies indicate that nearly half of all organisations have encountered security threats in the past year, with medical emergencies and natural disasters ranking among the top concerns. Furthermore, the study found that 62% of organisations believe their mobile workforce is exposed to risks when travelling abroad. Against this backdrop, the duty of care extends beyond the basics.

The risks associated with global operations are becoming more diverse and unpredictable. These risks can range from geopolitical tensions and civil unrest to the rapid spread of health epidemics. Such moments of crisis often test an organisation’s resilience, making it crucial to have effective duty-of-care strategies in place. These strategies should anticipate and prepare for various risks, emphasising rapid response and effective communication.

 Looking ahead, duty of care in the context of global mobility requires thoughtful integration of policies across areas such as safety, health, security, and logistics. This forethought and attention to detail regarding policy ensures that employees can perform at their best, unencumbered by worry. Policy development is the foundational step in establishing a robust duty-of-care program. Organisations must craft clear and comprehensive protocols that employees and stakeholders can follow in times of need. Policies should not only be readily accessible but should also undergo constant review to remain current and relevant in a volatile global setting.

The Intersection of Duty of Care and Corporate Strategy

Investing in duty of care is not just a legal and ethical imperative—it has strategic implications for businesses operating in the international arena. A robust duty of care framework can set an organisation apart, demonstrating a commitment to employee welfare and enhancing employee satisfaction, retention, and performance. A few key considerations include: 

  1. Aligning Duty of Care with Organisational Values—A company’s commitment to safeguarding employees must be ingrained in its culture and values. Organisations prioritising duty of care in their mobility programs signal to their employees, clients, and stakeholders that they are trusted and responsible global actors.
  2. Meeting Compliance Standards- While exceeding compliance requirements is laudable, ensuring that duty of care programs meet and exceed regulatory expectations is critical. Global authorities continue to introduce and enhance standards related to employee safety, particularly in mobility. Staying current with these regulations is essential for avoiding legal pitfalls and safeguarding employees.
  3. Maximising Operational Continuity- A robust duty of care framework is integral to business continuity planning. By maintaining the safety and health of its workforce, an organisation can minimise disruptions to daily operations, potentially saving millions in lost revenue and reputational damage.

Implementing Comprehensive Duty of Care Programs

Designing a duty of care program that is comprehensive and tailored to specific organisational needs requires careful planning and the involvement of key stakeholders. The following are essential elements that organisations gearing up for global mobilisation should consider in its development:

  1. Risk Assessment and Identification- Before mitigation can occur, organisations must identify the risks and conduct a thorough risk assessment to evaluate potential hazards associated with planned mobility activities. This assessment could encompass factors such as political stability, health risks, and environmental conditions.
  2. Structured Communication Plans- Effective communication is a linchpin in any successful duty of care program. Clear and accessible communication channels must be established to ensure employees can quickly report concerns and access support. This plan may include 24/7 hotlines, mobile apps, and secure online platforms.
  3. Ongoing Training and Awareness- Empowering employees with knowledge of potential risks and available resources is essential. Regular training sessions and dissemination of informative materials can keep mobility teams informed and prepared to respond to threats.
  4. Caring for the Emotional Well-being of Employees—Organisations and their HR professionals cannot underestimate the toll of international assignments on an employee’s mental health. Internal decision-makers must address the emotional well-being of their mobile workforce and, at times, may need to engage in counselling services and peer support networks and acknowledge the unique stressors associated with global mobility.
  5. Partnership with Reliable Service Providers- Collaborating with reputable service providers is crucial for implementing an effective duty-of-care program, and engaging experts with pre-existing connections can ensure a smooth transition across the board. 

Integrated Mobility Solutions from IPM Global

At IPM Global, we understand the importance of maintaining a human touch in global mobility programs, even as technology advances. Our highly experienced mobility consultants have supported companies through recessions and world crises. We understand the speed and urgency needed when companies adapt. Juggling your assignee population while maintaining organisational structure is a challenging feat. That is why we rely on more than our previous experience. Our team stays current on shifts and trends in global mobility, from changes in business traveller regulations to political turmoil. This commitment lets us strategically advise clients and help them achieve their commercial objectives. So, if your company is considering implementing or expanding a global mobility program, contact us today for a friendly, no-obligation discussion.