Given the recent terror attacks and threats in mainland Europe, it has never been more important for employers to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees when travelling abroad.
Any employer is under a basic legal obligation to take reasonable care for the safety of its employees. This obligation is strengthened where a staff member is sent overseas and the planning of the trip takes place in the UK.
A suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be an employer’s first step towards compliance. This assessment should be in writing, should be retained until the employee returns safely and should be updated if there is any material change in circumstances. When preparing the risk assessment, you must take account of any foreign travel advice shown on the website of the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Once the risk assessment is complete, if the employee is travelling to a developed or low risk country, you should then be able to make travel arrangements, provide a travel itinerary and leave the employee to make the journey. There will not generally be any need to do more unless you have reason to believe that the employee is vulnerable in some way.
The position becomes more complicated if you want to send an employee to a developing or high risk country. Here, you will have to put a detailed risk assessment in place, paying particular attention to:
- any FCO advice in relation to security and health.
- who will collect the employee at the arrival airport, and what has been done to vet that person and his or her organisation;
- where the employee will be staying on arrival and what has been done to check that an appropriate level of security is in place there;
- if the employee will then be going offshore, what arrangements are in place to make that transfer safe;
- whether any special security provisions are required at the place of work whether an onshore facility, ship or offshore installation; and, if so, whether they are in place;
- how the employee will get home safely;
- who the employee can contact both locally and in the UK should any problem arise;
- what emergency procedures you as the employer can call upon should a crisis arise in the country while the employee is there.
If something should go wrong on an overseas trip an employer who hasn’t taken appropriate precautions could be liable for both civil damages and criminal prosecution. If you need help with a risk assessment or other advice on overseas travel then please contact us for help and advice.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team