29 Mar If You Need to Travel Abroad for Business…
Employers face difficult decisions as organisations prepare recovery roadmaps for the coming year, including timings for offices to reopen and the resumption of overseas travel, you must ask yourselves exactly how essential a trip is, you must have staff welfare at the front of your mind and only resume business travel when safe to do so.
If the trip does go ahead it is going to be wrapped in red tape. What are the entry requirements of the destination? What Covid testing is required? Are there quarantine conditions on arrival and return?
But there are going to be further questions and conversations raised around whether staff who have been vaccinated should be free to travel and how trip approvals for those that haven’t – or choose not to be – will be handled.
A number of countries have set out national policies that would permit overseas travellers to enter if they can provide proof of vaccination. In some cases that is the only route in; in others it exempts them from quarantine requirements or Covid tests.
An existing example of this is the requirement of travellers arriving from locations where Yellow Fever is prevalent to provide proof of vaccination against it upon entry.
It’s widely considered that vaccinations against Covid-19 will greatly aid the resumption of business travel, as well as enhancing the safety of overseas travel for both the traveller and the host country.
But can you insist an employee be vaccinated, or can they decline or cancel a trip if they are unwilling or unable to be vaccinated? These are difficult moral and legal issues for corporates to deal with.
There are huge disparities and shortages of vaccine doses available in locations around the world. Rollouts are largely being managed by national governments, most of whom have established priority lists – everyone must wait their turn.
That is a logistical hurdle but, at the same time, vaccination is voluntary. It’s a personal decision and businesses are unlikely to insist employees are vaccinated.
What does that mean for those who aren’t vaccinated? Could they be prevented from travelling on business? That could be interpreted as discrimination.
Therefore, your risk assessment is going to become more prominent and more forensic.
It needs to consider the type of work that would be involved during an oversea trip, to ascertain the main risks of exposure and how best to mitigate this.
It is widely acknowledged that Covid-19 is transmitted most effectively by prolonged close contact within enclosed spaces, so time spent in these environments should be limited where possible. This could mean avoiding public transport and even conducting business meetings in outdoor environments. (There’s an idea!)
Would you consider, or can you afford, business class seats on flights, to reduce the number of close contacts you are exposed to? – something which would undoubtedly prove to be a popular move.
Carefully consider the context of your risk profile: age, gender, ethnicity and presence of underlying health conditions are all known to play a role in the risk of developing serious symptoms.
A good idea would be to have a check-up before travel. This would be good practice as health checks can flag up any underlying risks, for example respiratory illnesses.
Take a cautious wait-and-see approach if you can, as other countries progress out of lockdown.
Be seen to act in the best of interests. Having a policy in place is best for everyone to be clear and understand how to work and be safe within these new limits.