Man near panoramic window looking at the airplane
People can generally choose their holiday destinations, but often have little say about where they travel for work. In some countries in the Middle East, for example, migrant workers have been tested to determine their sex and in 2013, the Gulf Cooperative Countries, which includes countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE, announced plans to ban LGBTQ+ foreigners from entering Gulf countries. The proposal was later dropped, partly because of fears it would jeopardize Qatar’s World Cup bid.
With the need for business travel on the rise, duty of care – an employer’s moral and legal obligation to ensure the safety or wellbeing of its staff – has received growing attention over the past few years. In the climate of increased globalization, combined with mounting geopolitical and environmental issues that could affect travelers, there is now a better understanding of the topic by those who book travel.
Ensuring the safety of your employees should be paramount. When a job sends an employee to a country where their sexual orientation or how they identify is criminalized, it adds extra layers of complexity to ensuring an employer is meeting its duty of care responsibilities. Differing laws, views and cultures can make travel challenging for some, so it is essential that each individual knows they are being taken care of when traveling on their employer’s behalf.
As no two travelers are the same, how can you protect individuals traveling with different needs, in a way that doesn’t make people feel singled out?
Pre-trip briefing: Duty of care should apply to all employees when traveling for work. However, women and LGBTQ+ travelers are often faced with a multitude of safety and even legal issues when visiting certain countries. For example, 70 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Worryingly, these include increasingly busy business destinations in Asia and the Middle East.
When sending employees to countries that do not have the same values and attitudes as your business, there needs to be an awareness of tangible threats to LGBTQ+ employees. Staff who have disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity should be properly briefed and familiarized with the steps their organization has in place, should anything go awry.
During the trip:Companies should invest in technology that allows them to see where their employees are and when, for safety reasons. Encouraging employees to use app-based booking tools can provide real-time insight into their trip from airport to hotel. This is not a Big Brother-style operation but rather allows a travel manager or travel management company (TMC) to ensure they can communicate with an employee at a moment’s notice via email, text and or through an app, and be on hand to assist, if needed.
This is where a robust and agile risk management program will be invaluable. Meeting your commitment to all travelers can be achieved with accurate and consolidated data. Data from booking tools, your TMC, HR profiles, connected apps and location check-ins can give you the insights you need to support all employees, no matter how they booked their travel or where they are.
For example, if an LGBTQ+ employee finds themselves in a situation where they feel unsafe or threatened, an active monitoring team can assist them anywhere, at anytime. Having contact via several different mediums allows monitoring teams to respond quickly and assist them to safety.
Build a relationship between HR and travel managers:A good relationship formed between HR and travel managers is crucial when ensuring that all employees are safe.
Having strong diversity and inclusion policies is vital and allows an organization to beef up duty of care for all travelers, as well as the wider company culture.