Fact Sheet

Protecting your mobile workforce: Why Duty of Care matters

To what extent should firms care about their employees abroad? In their current Whitepaper, the International SOS Foundation and the Swiss Employers Confederation highlight why good risk mitigation is critical for companies to succeed internationally.

International SOS Foundation Quote von Michael Chavanne
Provided by
International SOS

In a world in motion, where business is increasingly globalized and interconnected, international travel is becoming a habit for more and more Swiss employees. Global mobility is on the rise: according to a study by the consulting firm PwC, the number of business travelers will have gone up by 50% from 2014 to 2020. But increased mobility also means that people will have to adapt to a foreign and rapidly changing environment: when traveling or assigned abroad, employees often face risks that are very different from those encountered in their home country.

Responsibility of companies regarding Duty of Care

What is the responsibility of companies regarding these issues? Firms often underestimate their duties in this regard: By virtue of Article 328 of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO; RS 220), companies can expose themselves to legal sanctions, should they fail to fulfill their four legal obligations – information, prevention, intervention and monitoring. In order to stay compliant with these duties, specific measures to mitigate risk on an international level can be implemented. Not only does travel risk management help satisfying these legal requirements; it also proves to be a significant return on investment. Being aware of medical and security risks and having good preparation and intervention capabilities can save important costs for the company: financial losses and operational disruption are not only caused by sudden crises or large-scale incidents. A canceled meeting, a disrupted journey, a failed expatriation: all these disturbances can have an important impact on the competitiveness of the firm and consequently on its bottom line.

Travel risk management for multinational companies and SME’s

Travel risk management is nowadays a well-known topic for many multinational companies: a lot of them have already implemented programs to efficiently prepare their travelers and international assignees to medical and security risks abroad. “For ABB, Duty of Care principles translate into “awareness”, “preparedness” and “response”, explains Marie Bauer, Program Manager Travel Security of the company. But the issue is also of importance for Swiss SMEs: health, safety and wellbeing of their employees are critical elements for their international development.

“It’s not just the large ones but also small and middle-sized enterprises which are expanding their activities to distant markets”, reminds Daniel Küng, CEO of Switzerland Global Enterprise.

He pursues “This involves preparing employees for possible health issues as well as identifying security concerns”. Although SMEs can be limited in their resources, they are not always aware that a few simple measures can go a long way in mitigating risk. Some of them, like Schroder Adveq, already took those important steps and have risk management policies in place. “Driving awareness remains a key element of success to the program”, highlights Manon Bonfranchi, Travel Manager of the firm.

Attract and retain new talent

What about the benefits of this approach on the people side? Taking care of their mobile workforce is also part of an organisation’s successful HR management: being able to protect employees at all times is key to a sustainable and long-term approach towards their human resources. Companies are nowadays facing the needs of a new generation who is more mobile and connected: an efficient travel protection program can be an argument to help them attract and retain new talent.

Whitepaper with legal analysis, testimonials and checklist 

This Whitepaper, published by the International SOS Foundation and the Swiss Employers Confederation with the support of Switzerland Global Enterprise and economiesuisse, is designed to help Swiss companies and organisations to navigate their duties towards their employees abroad. In addition to a legal analysis of the Swiss labor law and testimonials from Swiss companies, readers will find a checklist to measure the efficiency of one’s own travel risk mitigation policy. The Whitepaper can be downloaded below. 

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