Employers Lack a Duty of Care for Overseas Assignees

A new survey has revealed that employers display a lack of awareness and duty of care relating to their responsibilities for staff that are placed on foreign assignment.

The survey, which was conducted by medical assistance and security company International SOS, revealed that of the 600 global companies surveyed, over 95% of them sent employees on overseas assignments locations that were deemed to be at high risk as the result of the risk of disease, terrorism or political and civil unrest. Such locations included Brazil, Russia, India and China.

According to the survey results, at least one third of the companies that were questioned were unaware as to their legal requirements for safeguarding employees who were relocated to high-risk countries and there appeared to be a distinct lack of awareness of what employer obligations were.

Discussing the results, a spokesman for International SOS commented: “This was a particular concern as a company can be held criminally responsible for harm to employees or their dependants in high risk locations abroad, should the risk result from a failure of duty of care in UK.”

One of the key findings within ISO International’s survey pertained to the fact that many employer’s believed that the management of risks on behalf of employees who were assigned overseas was a matter of ethical concern as opposed to being something that they perceived themselves to be legally obliged to do.

Commenting on the results, Arnaud Vaissié, chairman and chief executive of International SOS, pointed out the importance of a duty of care towards employees and highlighted its commercial importance: “The study highlights the need for companies to focus on the best ways to pre-emptively protect their employees and – through them – their businesses,” he said.

ISO International’s findings revealed that employees who were working in the aerospace and defense sectors were most likely to be provided with a high duty of care from their employers while those in the construction, education and property industries received the lowest duty of care.