Imagine what your employees must be going through

SAP Concur's Angelique Montalto on why organisations' duty of care is elevated in such times of crisis.

We are all experiencing and embracing new challenges as we navigate the current climate of social and economic uncertainty. Globally, one and all we need to adapt to the new accepted norm of remote working and in more severe instances, a total lockdown of business as usual. Organisations owe it to their employees to keep them safe either while working remotely or travelling on official company business. 

In times of major disruption or heightened risk, companies need to take all necessary measures to ensure it can meet the necessary duty of care obligations and keep their employees informed and away from harm while they are operating on behalf of the organisation.

What is duty of care? 

Duty of care refers to a company’s moral and legal responsibility to care for the wellbeing of its employees during the course of business. This has clear implications for things like workplace culture, employee wellbeing, and company benefits, while another important aspect is ensuring the safety of employees during the performance of their work duties, whether they are at the office, working remotely. or travelling.

In South Africa, employer duty-of-care obligations are guided by statutory requirements mainly under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). In terms of the OHSA, the CEO of every employer is liable for contraventions of the OHSA, and can be fined or criminally convicted if found negligent. Importantly, while the OHSA refers specifically to ’the workplace’, which could refer to any 'place' where official work duties are performed, including working from home or travelling abroad.

This puts pressure on organisations to meet their duty of care obligations. Companies should know where their people are, whether far away or close to the office, and must be able to alert employees during a crisis, provide them with any assistance they may need, and keep open lines of communication until everyone is safe. 

Challenges with keeping mobile employees safe

In one study, 77 percent of finance leaders said they were not confident they could quickly and accurately locate employees during an emergency. Considering the growth in business travel and remote working, this is alarming: over the past 15 years travel spend has doubled to more than $1.2 trillion, with employee-initiated spend the second-largest expense in a growing number of organisations.

An additional complication is a growing behaviour of employees booking business travel trips independently, outside the company booking tool or preferred travel management company. Without access to accurate and timeous data for each employee, companies simply can’t track their movement or get in touch during a time of emergency. 

For most companies, manually tracking their employees is impractical or downright impossible. And their employees notice: in one study, 41 percent of employees who were near a natural disaster said they were not contacted by their company at all. 

This is where technology offers some vital tools to assist in the effort to keep employees safe and meet their duty of care obligations.

Tools to monitor and track employees’ wellbeing

The Active Monitoring and Locate services within SAP Concur provides companies with a powerful tool for capturing and accessing location data about employees in real-time. 

Through Locate, companies provide assessments and alert pre-trip to warn of potential dangers involved with the employee’s itinerary, and can reliably communicate directly with employees regardless of the situation. By using a single tool to monitor employee location, companies also gain intelligence on country-specific travel disruptions and risk events, and can proactively alert employees no matter the time of day.

Active Monitoring is an additional service designed in collaboration with risk management experts to simplify an organisation’s duty of care responsibilities. The service is integrated into SAP Concur and offers a full operations centre powered by HX Global, who specialises in tracking, alerting and assisting business travellers around the world 24/7/365.

Companies gain access to multiple channels for communicating with at-risk employees during times of emergency or crisis. They are also able to facilitate the sharing of information and advice to ensure they get their employees to safety as quickly as possible. SAP Active Monitoring and Locate are both available through the SAP Concur travel and expense management platform.