Do CPOs have a Duty of Care?

Buying and Procurement personnel comprise a significant chunk of annual international business commuters, which begs the question: are their respective organisations ensuring that they enjoy the same level of safety during their journeys as they do at the office?

The legal principle that applies is that every employee is entitled to health, safety, security and well being, regardless of where they find themselves.

However, the duty that employers have to protect members of their organisation travelling internationally for business is a much over-looked aspect of corporate travel management, according to Lizbeth Claus, Professor of Global Human Resources at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, USA.

Claus told SmartProcurement that her mission is to assist employers and management to understand the rights that individuals (and their families, where applicable) in an organisation have to their continued health and safety. Conversely, she also makes people aware of what many organisations fail to provide in the area of business travel.

“Do you have a plan in place to fulfil your responsibility to take care of members of your organisation in flight or in transit somewhere in or outside the country? Or, do you have a crisis management plan in place should an eventuality arise?” Claus put these questions to delegates at the February Travel-Buyers Meeting hosted by the Institute of Travel & Meetings Southern Africa (ITMSA) at the Cape Sun.

Many companies are unaware of the extent of their duty of care to their employees and simply have no idea of the enormous diversity of relevant legislation that abounds around the globe. Even those that are aware have big problems implementing appropriate processes and procedures because the concept ‘duty of care’ means different things to different organisations, said Claus.

For instance, if an employee (a buyer?) is caught up in a tsunami somewhere, what contingency planning does the company have in place? In these circumstances do you have any idea of the legal complexities that exist in dealing with a situation concerning foreign jurisdictions across the globe or, in another country in Africa.

You will face many tricky legal issues around liability in the different jurisdictions concerned, explained Claus. Ask yourself:

  • What is expected of your organisation in terms of the International Labour Organization (ILO) regulations?
  • Do you have the policies and procedures in place to deal with potentially hazardous eventualities arising?
  • Are there provisions for overseas travel in your standard employment contracts?
  • Does the employee have a valid driver’s license for the different destination countries?

You also need to thoroughly consider the human and / or business impact of a disaster arising. There can be enormous risks to consider.

Therefore, travel plans should also form part of an organisation’s risk management plan. To provide for this, Claus advises that an organisation should develop the relevant elements of a cost-benefit analysis so that it is will at least know if it must invest in appropriate resources like substantial travel and evacuation insurance. Managers must discuss the potential challenges and decide on the relevant best practises to follow to ensure their organisation can fulfil its duty of care under foreseeable circumstances.

From the Procurement professional’s perspective an area of particular interest is to investigate just how well e-procurement services are geared to cover these vital risks in the category of international corporate travel.

The ITMSA is a non-profit organisation, which educates and informs its members who are mostly travel buyers and their suppliers.

For more information contact the ITMSA Co-ordinator Nicky du Plessis at

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