Managing business travel risks in a changing world

The sharing economy and evolving definition of workplace present challenges to employers and the insurance industry

Managing business travel risks in a changing world

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

As companies globalise and establish locations all over the world, business travel has become more common, exposing employees to numerous risks while on business trips. This risk is amplified by the sharing economy, as well as a changing definition of ‘workplace’.

To learn more about how to manage risks in the changing world of business travel, Insurance Business spoke with Madanjit Singh (pictured), managing director for Southeast Asia at SAP Concur, a software-as-a-service firm that provides travel management solutions to businesses.

According to Singh, businesses are inadequately equipped to handle and ensure employee safety while travelling. Employers need to be able to reach employees anywhere, anytime, because they are responsible for ensuring their employees’ safety, but this is made more difficult by growing global uncertainties.

“Natural disasters, health risks, and man-made crises have driven up the level of risk that comes with each business trip,” he said. “For example, in 2016 alone, Concur issued more than 10 million alerts and messages notifying business travellers of potential risks in the locations they were visiting – that’s more than 25,000 alerts per day.”

He cited data from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) that says Asia-Pacific accounts for 40% of business travel spending globally, surpassing the US.

Sharing economy amplifies risks
Singh said that the rise of the sharing economy, exemplified by companies such as Airbnb and Uber, may have improved convenience for travellers, but it has also created significant challenges for companies in compliance and ensuring employee safety.

“When employees make direct bookings and book out-of-policy, arranging for their preferred transport/accommodation, organisations lack the full visibility of travelling employees’ locations and itinerary,” Singh said. “This amplifies business travel risks as companies are unable to be accountable for the risks involved and fulfil their duty of care. In times of urgency, organisations cannot get in touch with employees in real-time. For example, a robbery in a third-party accommodation or even a car accident not only impacts the employee’s safety, but is also a challenge when it comes to claiming insurance and hospital bills due to the lack of accreditation of such providers.”

The changing definition of ‘workplace’
The rise of digital technology has caused a major shift, as such the definition of ‘workplace’ has evolved beyond the boundaries of the physical office.

“Employees now find themselves working in areas atypical of the office, such as a café, hotel room, or even in a taxi, whether locally or overseas,” Singh said.

This is especially important, as business travel insurance may only cover activities done within the workplace. But as the lines between work and personal life begin to blur, in what has been termed as work-life integration, there may be difficulty determining what constitutes being at work, which could lead to major exposures.

“This changing definition of the ‘workplace’ would mean that employees will need to be insured beyond the physical office itself,” Singh said. “Legal regulations to protect employees against harm also similarly reflect this – Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act also automatically extends to employees who travel for work.”

According to Singh, companies and insurance providers must adapt and evaluate their policies to ensure that employee coverage includes travel on official business. While policies for major crises like terrorism activities and natural disasters might be already in place, companies must have a comprehensive Duty of Care strategy that comprises everything ranging from flight delays and cancellations to strikes to medical emergencies, and other events.

Software solution
In order to help businesses manage risks associated with business travel, SAP Concur has developed an end-to-end connected and automated spend management solution encompassing travel, expense, invoice, compliance, and risk. The solution can integrate with ride-sharing apps, such as Uber and Grab, to automatically sync ride details into business traveller expense reports.

“For example, SAP Concur’s Locate and Active Monitoring solution helps businesses find employees and share critical information at a moment’s notice during a crisis, so they can be kept safe and in touch until the crisis passes,” Singh said. “Concur Locate consolidates all of the employee location and itinerary data in one place, then presents it in an easy-to-use, dynamic map, so no matter where or when a crisis arises, there is a single view of every affected employee.”

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