Duty of Care and Risk Management Have Moral and Legal Obligations You Need to Understand
Updated April 30, 2020
As an executive at a company whose team members often travel, you’ll find that there are two inescapable buzz-phrases: “duty of care” and “risk management.”
Because duty of care and risk management are so inextricably linked, they are often confused for one another. But, that said, it’s important to know that these 2 terms are not interchangeable and that each one has its own uniquely important definition.
In 2017, Business Travel News shared an in-depth look at duty of care vs. risk management that still holds true today. See below for clear explanations of the key differences between the two, as well as what these terms mean in action for your company.
Duty of Care vs. Risk Management: Clear Definitions
We’ve previously written about common sense duty of care and what it means for executives. But what are the differences between duty of care and risk management? It’s actually quite simple:
Duty of care (DOC) is the responsibility a company has to keep its travelers safe. The obligation can be both moral and legal.
Risk management (RM) is how a company lives up to that responsibility. That is, risk management is the collection of strategies, tactics, tools and processes a company uses to meet its moral and legal obligations.
Duty of Care and Keeping Team Members Safe
The concept of workers compensation is generally well understood both by employees and management. If a worker is injured in the course of executing his or her job, that worker is entitled to compensation while recovering from the injury.
Duty of care is a way of describing that same safety obligation when the world becomes the workplace. Any company holds a moral responsibility to keep employees safe who are traveling away from the office, whether the destination is domestic or international.
The legal obligation is perhaps less clear than the moral one, though. In the United States, court cases have decided for workers in some instances and for companies in some others.
A white paper published by the International SOS Foundation and the Fisher Phillips law firm provides examples, including how courts decided the cases of 4 oil workers killed while working in Pakistan (a jury decided the company had taken appropriate steps to keep them safe) and a student who fell ill while studying in China (a jury decided the school had not appropriately informed the student about risk).
In both cases, you can see the difference between duty of care and risk management. The oil company had an obligation to keep its workers safe while in Pakistan (DOC), and it provided the appropriate protections (successful RM). The school had an obligation to keep its students safe while traveling in China (DOC), and the school failed to provide the appropriate protections (unsuccessful RM).
How to Understand Risk
No company wants to see its employees harmed while traveling for business, and no company wants to face the liability associated with harm to its team members. But how can a company take active steps to prevent travel-related liability?
The Business Travel News story outlines a 3-step process that simplifies how companies can approach risk management:
- Evaluation: Before your team members leave on business trips, it’s important that a company evaluate the safety risks they might face. Large companies may have in-house risk management teams, or an agency like JTB Business Travel can provide duty of care services that help prepare, monitor and respond to travelers.
- Protection: Once risks are identified and evaluated, a company needs to take steps to protect against those risks.
- Insurance: No risk can be fully mitigated. Securing insurance helps bridge the gap between the maximum possible risk and the maximum amount of protection a company can provide.
Do You Need Duty of Care Support?
Not all companies are large enough to necessitate an in-house risk management team that is constantly thinking about employees and their safety. That’s why we provide common sense duty of care solutions for companies whose employees often travel for work.
Contact us today to learn more about our duty of care services.