Accident Assistance | The rise & risks of DIY business travel

The rise & risks of DIY business travel

By Karoliina Gutaj, Head of Strategy & Marketing, Generali Employee Benefits Network

As business travel increasingly becomes the norm for employees of all ages, DIY travel is on the rise - amongst the younger generation in particular who are more likely to view online marketplace travel options such as Airbnb or Expedia as attractive in spite of most organisations encouraging them to use the compliant, corporate systems and processes.

This obviously presents risks. Not only around travel but also other important areas of insurance, such as personal accident, medical and security assistance.

Also, a recent article in International HR Adviser reported that there is increased pressure on companies to evidence robust, compliant, policies specifically designed to frame this important element of global mobility. This comes as tax and immigration authorities around the world are reportedly turning their attention to business travellers.

The article reports on a recent poll conducted at Deloitte EMEA Conference in June 2018, which asked employers how they would rate their existing travel policy and related processes. The majority (33%) stated “limited action / need to do more”. Only 13% said they had a “comprehensive approach” while another 13% said “no process”.

There is obviously much more that companies can do here.

The changing world of business travel

Business travel is becoming the norm rather than the exception. It used to be largely limited to salesmen and high-level managers. Now, staff trips can involve most team members and include everything from conferences to team-building exercises and corporate hospitality events.

Michael Pettifer, Managing Director at MPI Brokers, a business insurance specialist, said: “There is no doubt that the number of people travelling abroad with work is growing all the time.”

The global nature of modern business also means more long-haul trips, which can bring extra risks such as diseases, kidnapping, and – more prosaically – flight disruption.

Extended overseas assignments are also becoming more common, due partly to a shift in how work-related travel is viewed. While older generations have often seen business travel as a way to earn more money, for example, millennials are more interested in the learning opportunities it presents.

Research from Mercer Mobility Exchange indicates that 98% of millennials see travel as a chance to develop their career, whereas only 27% see it as a way to boost their income.

And the signs are that the next generation of employees will be just as keen to travel with work.

More than eight in 10 US students in their final year of college – members of the so-called Generation Z born in the early 2000s – want to work abroad, according to a 2017 survey from US relocation expert Graebel.

Tech-savvy young employees are more likely to want to arrange their own flights and accommodation via online services.

Employers therefore need to update their mobility policies to mitigate the risks associated with travel arrangements of this kind.

The increasing importance of insurance

The need for companies to protect themselves and their employees with insurance is nothing new.

“It has always been important for employers to be sufficiently insured,” Pettifer said.

“Most now recognise that, although some large companies still choose to run the risk of covering any costs themselves.”

When it comes to business travel, however, it is vital that companies recognise the value of group insurance as opposed to individual policies taken out by employees.

“If a company is paying for the travel, it is liable for any problems that arise,” Pettifer said.

“Individual travel insurance will only cover travel that is booked in the employee’s name with his or her card.”

The lowdown on the law

Under UK employment law, all companies – from small businesses to multinationals with thousands of staff – have a duty of care to protect their employees’ health, safety and welfare.

This includes when they are travelling for work, as well as when they are in the office.

So, taking out adequate insurance against eventualities such as accidents, illness and travel delays is an important part of meeting the obligation.

Whether employees are travelling abroad or in the UK, modern employers also need to take measures to meet their wellbeing needs while they are away.

Examples of processes that can be put in place to ensure this include offering travelling employees’ access to a global assistance service, and asking them to stay in regular contact with a line manager.

Generali UK recently launched flexible personal accident, business travel and multinational solutions

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Generali UK provides Group Life Assurance, Group Income Protection - plus added-value wellbeing services - to the UK employees of multinational clients. Generali UK is also pioneering Wellbeing Investment Matching, helping clients fund discrete, tailored wellbeing initiatives where a need has been identified.

Access to a range of multinational pooling and captive solutions is available via: Generali Employee Benefits Network (GEB), and a range of non-life coverages is available via Generali Global Corporate & Commercial.