Work-related travel can open up employees to a myriad of risks, whether they’re attending a conference outside of the office, traveling to another state for work, or crossing borders to contribute to a long-term project.
The top risk to traveling employees comes up when they get behind the wheel and take their eyes off the road to text, take a call, or have another bite of their breakfast sandwich.
“The number one trend that I see is distracted driving,” said Matt Zender, AmTrust Financial Services’ senior vice president of workers’ compensation strategy. “There are clear trends that are showing that frequency is increasing in driving claims and many of these industries that are impacted are not industries that typically would expect to see a lot of driving exposure – this is an anomaly for them. If you’re working in hospitality, for example, you may not be thinking that you’ve got a lot of driving exposure, but you do in these particular instances.”
Some of the standard risk mitigation approaches to address distracted driving include implementing a phone free-policy while employees are driving for work-related trips, and not chastising them for failing to respond to an email or a text when they’re on the road.
However, driving exposures are not the only risks facing employees who are traveling for work. Injuries sustained at a hotel they’re staying at over the course of a work trip or medical issues that can arise if they’re abroad for work can also derail work-related travel, though there are ways that employers can avoid putting their traveling employees at risk.
“Making sure that they’re staying in reasonably safe lodging is helpful,” said Zender. “It might be nice to save a couple dollars, but you want your employees somewhere where they’re not going to be at risk of some type of violent attack or bedbugs, so having a reasonably generous travel policy can certainly help make sure that your employees are set up in a safe manner.”
Workers’ compensation insurance can help employees get back to work if their trips don’t go exactly as planned.
“When an employee is truly traveling for work, they are basically covered 24/7,” said Zender. “It’s a much broader range than you’d find ordinarily. I think ordinarily an employer is just focused on those things that are happening in the course and scope of their employment – things that they can easily control – and it’s one reason why I think employers get a little nervous about traveling employees because they don’t have the same control. Many of these claims are unwitnessed and many of these claims are atypical of what that employee is normally involved in.”
If employees are going abroad for work for longer periods of time, businesses might want to consider buying an endorsement.
“One of the things that clearly employers need to think about is foreign travel. If they have employees who are going to routinely or periodically find themselves with foreign travel, that’s something that they should be thinking about and have their workers’ comp policy assist with that,” said Zender. “Foreign travel in and of itself is generally going to be covered by all workers’ comp policies. However, the nature of what they’re doing, the length of what they’re doing – if they’re over there for a five or six-day export search where they’re trying to find items to bring back to their business – that’s going to be covered by a workers’ comp policy. If they’re over there for three to four months on an extended basis, you clearly have some issues with whether or not that’s going to be covered and it probably wouldn’t be.”
If individuals are routinely doing this type of traveling for work, the business should think about either a foreign voluntary endorsement on their workers’ comp policy or they should consider purchasing a foreign liability policy.
“What the foreign voluntary endorsement does is basically guarantee repatriation out of that country, so if the employee is injured say in France, the foreign voluntary would make sure that we can get them out of that country as quickly as medically reasonable,” explained Zender. “And that can be very important, depending on the country that they’re traveling to. Some countries may not be fully-equipped to help make sure that they’re mitigating injuries in the way that we’d like to see.”
“Our employers who have these types of exposures should be encouraged to reach out to us, to reach out to our library of services, and we’re happy to help guide them and make sure that they’re helping to protect their employees,” said Zender. “These are oftentimes some of their bigger earners, some of their more important employees that they’re trusting to be out in the field, so it’s very important for them to make sure that these folks are able to get back into the workforce as quickly as possible, and we understand and recognize that.”