Any form of travel for companies can be risky, especially if your employees need to do it regularly. But you can give them peace of mind by providing them with a “duty of care”: a legal obligation to ensure their safety and well-being at work.
This duty of care arises because you’ve hired the employee to help with your business. If they get injured while carrying out tasks that you had directed them to do, it’s not hard to imagine that you should generally be held responsible for the incident.
Duty of care doesn’t just cover employees stationed locally either: it also extends to employees who are overseas for work. However, different countries have different duty of care requirements.
Here, we’ll cover some duty of care requirements in Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. If you’re an employer in one of these countries, you might want to pay special attention!
Duty of care in Singapore
In Singapore, employers are required to take necessary measures to ensure their employees’ health and safety at work, so far as is reasonably practicable. These measures include:
- Providing a safe work environment
- Protecting employees from possible work hazards
- Developing and implementing procedures for dealing with work emergencies
- Providing employees with sufficient training and supervision in order to work safely
If an employee gets injured in the course of work (whether locally or overseas), they can claim from the employer work injury compensation for their medical bills and wages for the duration of their medical leave.
What’s more, there’s no need for the employee to prove that their employer was at fault in order to make a successful work injury compensation claim. In other words, even if you had implemented all necessary measures to ensure a safe work environment, the bills for your employees’ work injuries can still be on you!
Duty of care in Thailand
Similar to Singapore’s stance, Thailand also requires employers to provide safe and hygienic work conditions for employees. However, Thai law goes one step further by expressly requiring the protection of employees’ physical health and mental health.
Before employees can start work that may put their health at risk, the employer is duty-bound to inform the employee of the risks and provide them with a work safety manual. The employee must also be sent for occupational safety, health, and environment training.
And that’s not all: the employee’s executives or supervisors must also attend the same training so they can manage the employee adequately. This training requirement also applies if an employee were to change workplaces and that such change might put their health at risk.
Duty of care in Vietnam
Vietnamese law obliges employers to conduct risk assessments of potential workplace hazards, and propose measures to minimise the occurrence of accidents. Employers also need to develop contingency plans to deal with work emergencies that do occur, and organise periodic training and practice on the execution of these plans.
Employees who have worked for at least three months must also have health insurance cover for their medical treatment expenses. The health insurance premiums are pegged at three percent of the employee’s monthly salary, with the employer contributing two-thirds of the amount and the employee paying the rest.
There are also specific laws for Vietnamese employers sending employees abroad. For example, these employers have to provide the employee with all necessary knowledge for their overseas assignment beforehand.
The employer must also take charge of the organisation of the work trips and management of their corporate travellers. If an employee is no longer capable of working overseas, the employer must arrange to bring the employee home, while footing all relevant expenses.
Fulfilling your duty of care to overseas employees
Despite differences in the precise scopes of duty of care in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, one thing is clear: employers must take measures to provide employees with a safe work environment. All the more so when it comes to travel for companies, where employers have less oversight and control over their corporate travellers’ safety.
To fulfil your duty of care to your corporate travellers, start by drawing up a corporate travel policy. This is a document that contains information on your company’s travel booking and expense procedures, and—most relevantly for duty of care—information on what employees should do during a travel emergency, based on identified risks.
Next, consider pairing your corporate travel policy with a corporate travel management tool. Your policy may state the emergency procedures, but a good corporate travel management tool can supercharge the execution of these procedures. For example, it can facilitate contact between you and the employee, and also help pinpoint the employee’s current location.
The best-laid plans can still go awry, however, and that’s where getting adequate insurance cover comes in. Medical bills can really add up, so you’ll be thankful that you didn’t skip this step.
(And if insuring your employees is mandated by the laws of your country, you don’t really have any leeway to skip it.)
Doing all these will go a long way in meeting your duty of care obligation to your corporate travellers. But ensuring your employees’ safety is not just a legal obligation—it’s a moral one too, so don’t feel restricted to the law’s minimum standards if you think you can do more to help your employees go home to their families safely every day!