• International Workplace
  • 1 August 2017

Business travel: employers must prepare for threat of kidnap and ransom

As business travel becomes ever more integral to corporate growth plans, employers need to be aware that the threat of kidnap and ransom can occur in any region. As companies expand into new territories this can potentially increase the risk to business travellers, yet employers underestimate this risk and need to do more to protect their employees, says The Health Insurance Group

Approximately 40,000 kidnappings occur every year and over 40% of these are of business personnel or their dependents. Regions with the highest risk, such as Mexico, Libya and Bangladesh, are well known and employers may have been aware of these risks for some time. However, kidnappings can occur in any region and it’s important that employers consider the risks wherever they send their staff.

Employers also need to remember, this isn’t only relevant for expats, but any staff that travel for work.

What has changed?

Data suggests high-risk areas are expanding their territory and getting more dangerous. Business travel to these regions is also rising. Result Group, the risk and crisis management consultancy, reports a significant deterioration of the safety situation across Africa in the last four years – an attractive continent for business due to its rapid economic growth.

Kidnap and ransom, whilst most common in high-risk regions, is not exclusive to them, it can happen anywhere, so it is understandable that employees may be getting more worried about their personal safety. Indeed, research from ABTA shows that safety is employers’ number one concern for staff that travel abroad for work.

Given this context, it is now a priority for employers to be prepared, wherever they are sending staff. In practice, this includes conducting research before travel, getting advice from experts and ensuring the relevant insurance is in place.

Suzanne McMinn FCIPD MSSP, HR Director at International Workplace, advises:

“Employers should be assessing the risk before employees travel. This should link closely with information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding the level of risk of travel, civil disorder and other relevant risk factors that employers should fully bear in mind before deploying their staff.

“Before commencing on overseas travel, employers should ensure, wherever possible, that there is a local contact for employees to liaise with throughout their trip, that local customs, laws and culture are understood before travelling, and that employees are medically fit and able to travel.

“Aside from making pre-travel arrangements, it is also beneficial to have a full debrief after the business travel has taken place. This allows the employer to have better knowledge about any issues that employees may face whilst working overseas, for example where accommodation has not been as expected, travel arrangements haven’t worked, areas are at a higher risk than was previously assessed, local contacts are not in place or lines of communication with the home country have not worked.  This will all help support further overseas travel and will help employers reduce the level of risk where they can do so.”

Not only will such steps ensure adequate protection is in place, it also enables a company to fulfil its legal obligations to staff, and is a reassurance for staff working abroad. 

IOSH has produced an information guide on keeping staff safe and healthy whilst abroad, which is available to view here.