The bottom line is that employers need to be familiar with and sufficiently address the issues facing their workers who travel and/or perform work abroad.
As of late 2014, the United States faced no Ebola pandemic whatsoever. Overseas business travel liability awareness has increased. The odds of catching Ebola in an American workplace remained statistically zero. Only a handful of Ebola cases had made their way to the United States, and a few hospitals aside, every American workplace remained Ebola-free. Only two employees had caught Ebola on an American job site—both at the same Dallas hospital. Both survived.
And yet American employers have been battening down for the Ebola pandemic possibly to come. Industrial health and safety experts have been recommending Ebola protective measures. Conferences on Ebola have been scheduled. Law firms have issued bulletins
explicating the theoretical legal issues that might emerge were Ebola to infect American workplaces. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has even drawn criticism for not giving employers enough detailed guidance on preventing Ebola.
Meanwhile, where an actual Ebola pandemic rages in real time and endangers countless workers is West Africa, particularly Liberia, Sierra Leone and parts of Mali and Guinea. The World Health Organisation had declared Africa’s Ebola pandemic a “Public Health
Emergency of International Concern.” The pandemic has killed well over 5,000 Africans with “more than 150 Liberian medical workers [having] died from Ebola.” (S. Fink, “Treating Those Treating Ebola in Liberia,” The New York Times, Nov. 6, 2014)
As of 2014, the most urgent real-world Ebola risk threatening the American workforce is in Africa—that is, the danger US-based staff face when traveling for work to West Africa. Think of researchers, journalists, consultants, medical relief workers, infrastructure development teams, government staff, government contractors, and American expatriates who happen to live and work where Ebola strikes.
And so the most practical Ebola question that employers should be asking about their American staff is: What is our liability risk as to our US-based employees and expatriates who contract Ebola while working overseas?
Dear Hospitality Professional: HELLO! The Mid-Atlantic ADA Center at TransCen, Inc., and researchers at the University of Maryland at College Park, are conducting a survey of your experiences with providing reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities in the hotel and lodging industry. We hope our study’s findings will guide development of training and technical assistance activities for aiding personnel in the hotel and lodging industry to more effectively handle requests for reasonable accommodations from employees with disabilities.
We welcome your participation in this 12 to 15-minute electronic survey. As a token of appreciation for completing the survey, we are offering a voluntary opportunity to enter a lottery to win a $10.00 VISA gift card. You have a 1 in 5 chance of winning a card.
If you are interested, please click on the link below. If you have other colleagues who might be interested, please feel free to distribute this invitation email to them.
We appreciate your time!
LINK TO Reasonable Accommodations Survey on SurveyGizmo:
In some situations, it is actually more risky to travel in large groups, since they carry the risk of becoming a target of protestors, extremists and criminals, who often choose highly visible and largely attended events to maximize the impact of their message. In fact, according to the US Department of State’s Worldwide Caution issued on April 10, “Extremists may elect to…target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the US and abroad where US citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.”
Another risk inherent in large group travel that many companies don’t consider is the mixed demographic of the group, especially as it pertains to comfort levels with international travel. “For example, junior employees may be leaving the country for the first time, and are more prone to taking risks,” notes Tom Davidson, VP of sales and marketing at On Call International. “It would be wise to assign them to a group containing more seasoned travelers. In this way, senior employees can help model and reinforce the importance of appropriate behavior for junior employees.”
On Call, headquartered in Salem, NH, provides medical evacuation and emergency assistance to travelers anywhere in the world.
Sports Lovers, Beware
As indicated by the US State Department warning, mass gatherings such as high profile international sporting events can become popular venues for those with anti-government agendas to air their grievances. The recent World Cup in Brazil, where over 2,000 activists took part in anti-World Cup protests, as well as the June 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, when over a million people participated in demonstrations to protest government corruption and financial mismanagement, highlighted these concerns. Many of the protests turned violent and several resulted in fatalities.
Travelers in large groups at such events should also pay heed to the risk of being injured within such a confined, high-density crowd. Even what normally starts as a minor demonstration has the potential to spiral into violence and create dangerous conditions where injury – especially by trampling – can occur. Furthermore, protests can clog traffic arteries, making travel to and from hotels and airports a significant security concern.
Another risk factor in large group travel to international sporting events is the transmission of communicable disease, since large numbers of people are concentrated in one area and germs can spread quickly. For some travel managers, keeping track of multiple employees’ health concerns during the Olympic Games in Beijing was no minor task. With each employee possessing a unique set of pre-dispositions or pre-existing conditions, it was important to be able to find employees wherever they were, locate appropriate medical care if needed, and overcome linguistic and cultural barriers along the way.
Additionally, protecting intellectual data was a concern that surfaced during the recent 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. With reports of cyber terrorism hitting the news, some travel managers were particularly worried about tracking their group’s proprietary information on a virtual level.
It’s a Duty of Care Thing
Fortunately, travel assistance and security providers offer a wide variety of services to help mitigate risks associated with large group travel, such as traveler tracking services. Other services are more sophisticated, such as having canine explosives detection teams, armed VIP protection or transportation and traffic management teams on the ground with your group.
No doubt, the provision of these kinds of services during large group travel is a duty of care issue. “Traveler tracking is an efficient way to keep track of employees in large groups and help meet duty of care,” says Charlie Terry, SVP of product management and product marketing at iJET International in Annapolis, MD. “It can be performed via an employee’s itinerary – that is, verifying the traveler is where he is supposed to be via air, train and hotel – or it can be done via mobile phone, wherein the traveler checks in manually by sending his or her latitude/longitude, often at frequent intervals. This type of tracking is often used in high Country Security Assessment Rating (CSAR) areas,” Terry explains.
Adequately preparing groups before they travel is another duty of care issue. This includes reviewing the threats inheent in the destination, especially if employees are unfamiliar with that location and do not understand security and cultural risks there. In order to effectively train travelers before departure, companies can perform desktop exercises to practice various scenarios such as a fire, bombing, evacuation or a medical emergency, including how to access third party medical and security assistance.
“Also, in addition to performing desktop exercises and site reviews, we provide intelligence before and during the entire duration of the trip to monitor any unexpected factors that may arise such as civil unrest, harsh weather, crime or anti-government protests,” Terry adds. “These factors often impair a group’s ability to move around freely. We also provide specialized trainings, such as for all-female groups, who may require extra information on the cultural and social norms of the destination.”
When Rotary International was planning a large meeting in a country that could experience disruptive strikes and demonstrations, they turned to iJET. “We plan these large meetings years in advance and began discussions about a year and a half before the meeting,” says Robert S. Mintz, manager of corporate relations and global travel for Rotary International in Evanston, IL. “iJET helped us identify the threats that might pose the greatest risk to our meeting and developed a detailed evacuation plan of assembly/pick up locations for our team should they need assistance. They also established a communications network that allowed us to push a broadcast text message to all staff who were assigned local cellphones that required a return receipt so we were sure they got the message and the system worked. About 96 percent acknowledged the test message within 10 minutes and thankfully the meeting was uneventful from a risk perspective and a success with the audience,” Mintz explains.
Cover Your Crowd
“Companies can also help meet their duty of care obligations by providing employees with the appropriate business travel coverages, including security, repatriation and evacuation,” states On Call International’s Tom Davidson. “Offering a mixed array of products can sometimes be the best bet; this array of products can range from the most basic services such as VIP transport to a very sophisticated and expansive solution that is completely customized to a group’s needs.”
Davidson provides a detailed example. “For instance, one of our clients had a group of 375 employees travel to Fiji; 75 spouses accompanied the employees, bringing the total group number to 450. After conducting a thorough analysis of their needs and the destination, we realized medical capabilities in Nadi maintained a Level 2 tertiary care ranking (Level 3 is the highest),” he says. “We reviewed a list of ailments that were treatable at a Level 2 clinic, knowing that anyone who needed a higher level of care would need to endure a 13-hour flight to New Zealand. After this analysis, we decided we would dedicate an air ambulance for 10 days in Nadi in case the situation arose that someone needed a higher level of care.”
On Call, which has an in-house chief medical officer, medical director and staff of doctors, also flew in a physician, who set up shop on site in Fiji and played a key role in identifying potential concerns. All employees traveling in the group had access to his cell phone number. In this case, the customized solution put the client at ease and mitigated potential medical risks, allowing the company to meet its duty of care objectives.
Keep the Job Going
While duty of care towards employees is crucial, another issue of concern in large group travel is business continuity. “Companies must consider what it means for their future if the concentration of intellectual property in one location is destroyed,” states John Rose, COO of iJET International. “For example, suppose a pro-sports team puts 100 percent of their intellectual property (the players and coaches) on a single aircraft. If that plane crashes, the $2 billion valuation of the franchise goes to $0. It’s a risk they have to take, but a risk nonetheless,” he explains.
Similarly, the entire sales team, or executive committee, should not be sent to one location and never together on one flight, so they are not affected by one singular crisis. “An executive team should be broken into half and half; this is one of the lessons we learned from Haiti, when the earthquake wiped out an entire hotel in one particular location,” adds On Call’s Davidson.
Learning from these lessons is important, especially as trends in group travel are expected to grow. According to the Global Business Travel Association, spending by US businesses in 2014 is expected to increase to $288.8 billion. One of the reasons for this growth is increased spending on group trips, which will rise by 7.2 percent to $124.1 billion in 2014. In the end, organizations need to evaluate their capacity and skills in managing large group travel. If undertaking the effort in-house, companies should ask, do we have the risk management maturity? If utilizing a travel management company, is it experienced enough? “Take a step back and see if you can handle it,” advises Davidson. “If not, then don’t engage in large group travel without seeking the assistance of a provider who has the knowledge, experience and skill to do so successfully.”
Worldwide phenomenon Airbnb (and others like VRBO and HomeAway), the website that allows people to rent out lodging spaces (typically privately-owned residences), has established itself as a disruptive force in the hospitality industry. It allows travelers to enjoy unprecedented flexibility at substantially reduced costs, and via a proven profile rating system has earned itself a reputation for reliability and security compared to traditional rental boards and sites like Craigslist. Despite these benefits, however, Airbnb remains a riskier lodging choice for business travelers than conventional hotels. The added regulations and de facto security features of a hotel mitigate some of the issues that Airbnb users may encounter; as a relatively new and unregulated sub-industry, Airbnb relies primarily on the professionalism of private hosts for quality control. Here are three reasons employers and employees might think twice before using Airbnb for business travel:
1. Accommodations may not meet reasonable health standards. While the reputation rating system on Airbnb appears to serve as a powerful deterrent to renting out unclean properties, it can still happen, and hosts typically aren’t required by law to meet the same standards of cleanliness as a hotel.
2. Accommodations may not meet reasonable safety standards. While hotels are required by law to install and maintain safety features like smoke detectors and fire escapes, many private residences—especially older ones—do not have these features.
3. Accommodations may not meet reasonable security standards. Hotels almost universally control access to various parts of their building(s) and typically have at least basic security measures in place in parking lots and entry areas, while many houses and apartments do not.
This P3 Hospitality Risk Report will discuss various situations that occur within the hospitality industry and cover topics featuring front desk best practices that you and your front desk staff should be aware of, and ready for.
Duty of Care requires that you protect people from harm where you know there is a potential risk. Workplace violence has become an all too often occurrence these days. I’m still surprised at the lack of planning for terminations. In many cases, senior management is telling security and HR they are over reacting. If you don’t take adequate steps, you can be found liable. Why is it we plan for meetings, presentations as well as budgets, yet when it comes to terminations it is an after thought? I constantly read quotes such as “he was a really nice guy” or “she was a great worker”. Good people sometimes do bad things when a trigger goes off setting in motion a chain of events. Also, these ‘really great people’ are on social media discussing hurting people, need for revenge, or corporate greed. Past violence is a predictor of future violence. I recently saw a picture online of a man holding a gun with all sorts of ramblings about getting even with a coworker. Scary stuff!
What should you consider prior to terminating an individual?
1. Complete a threat risk assessment. What are the risks – high, medium and
2. Based on the risks what measures should be considered?
3. Does the individual have a social media footprint?
4. Ongoing monitoring of social media. What has been posted online for the last 30 days and what is happening post termination? Social media can be data mined and can paint a clear picture.
We have seen posts on social media such as “I use to have a job and life. Not anymore.” This individual threatened the HR manager and their family a few short hours after this post.
5. Will security be required? How much? When and where? If you have security are they equipped and trained to deal with workplace violence situations? All guards are not created equal.
6. Will surveillance be required to track movements following the termination in high-risk scenarios?
These are just a few of the many things to think about. Without taking time to understand the threat, you may find yourself in a risky situation. The costs of not having a plan can be huge.
The Problem of Child Trafficking
With the use of online classified ads, child trafficking has moved off the streets and behind the closed doors of local hotel rooms. Youth are targeted and manipulated by pimps who transport victims from city to city via U.S. owned airlines and buses.
Exploiters use hotel rooms as venues to abuse children, knowing that systems are not in place to identify and protect the victims. Air travel is also a primary means of transportation for child sex tourists– individuals who travel overseas to sexually exploit local children.
In response, buyers of corporate travel are in a position to express their interest in working with suppliers that address human trafficking. They can also become members of the Code themselves.