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Duty of Care… and Our Own Tale to Tell 01.28.2019 | Jennifer Connell

Last week, over 300 corporate mobility professionals attended Weichert’s webinar on Nine Trends to Watch in 2019. In case you missed it, we’ll break down each trend into separate blog posts over the next few weeks. This week, we kick off the series with focus on duty of care.

Emergencies happen. The unexpected occurs without warning. I have always known and appreciated this, but last week, I had another reminder. Right in the middle of our latest webinar, the power was knocked out, a casualty of the severe winter storm raging outside our Boston office. Proving she has a sense of humor, Mother Nature took a swing just as I started to speak on Duty of Care and emergency preparedness! As the room went dark, my mind started working furiously to develop a contingency plan.

Thankfully, the outage didn’t last long. In roughly ten minutes power was restored, and, finding more than half the audience still on the line, I was pleased to pick up where we left off. It only seems fitting that my first post-webinar blog reflect the information that I shared on corporations’ responsibility to their mobile employees in the event of emergency.

Emergency Preparedness and the broader “Duty of Care”– the latter referring to a company’s legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety, security and well-being of its relocating employees and their accompanying family members — have been trending in workforce mobility as companies address catastrophic incidents that have been dominating headlines.

More recent examples include the California wildfires, flooding in Alberta and New Orleans, tsunamis in Japan, Hurricane Maria and multiple earthquakes. However, disasters may also extend to areas of political unrest or economic crisis, such as the one that escalated in Greece nearly 10 years ago.

Trend to Watch: Increasing emphasis on emergency preparedness and variety of situations underscores Duty of Care and its place in mobility programs in 2019.

For the most part, mobility managers are finding it challenging to come up with a plan to ensure the safety of their relocating employees when they’re out of arms reach. Over 50% of organizations indicated they have a crisis management team to assist business travelers in the event of an emergency, but it often falls upon the shoulders of mobility managers to create a plan to connect to mobile employees when a crisis occurs.

I asked a number of companies about their priorities for Emergency Preparedness and duty of care and what their plans needed to address. The most common responses were:

• Educating internal business partners on the risks
• Implementing better tracking systems to keep tabs on mobile employees (especially global assignees)
• Have systems in place to communicate with employees (companies that are embracing technology can send alerts to employees or providers during an emergency)
• Define ownership/accountability in the event of an emergency

Often, Duty of Care is managed at the individual level. As the use of lump sums and self-service models increase, employees want to use ride sharing and apartment sharing apps in order to maximize their funds. Do companies have the ability to control where the employee stays if the objective is to save costs? If so, how do you ensure the safety of those employees?

My own situation during the webinar turned out fine and I was able to communicate with colleagues to get the session back up and running. While I don’t ever want to have another webinar event disrupted by a storm, it’s given me newfound appreciation for what our clients do. I’m also putting my money where my mouth is and putting an emergency plan in place for the next time… just in case I need it!

For more information on Duty of Care, request our whitepaper on Extended Business Travelers from solutions@weichertwm.com.

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Written by Jennifer Connell

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Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is Practice Leader with Weichert’s Advisory Services group. She has over 23 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and received Worldwide ERC’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017. She has also spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America.

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