HR must act to sew up contracts covering employee travel abroad

HR practitioners should review and reinforce their contractual mobility
clauses in light of recent world events, warn advisers.

The likelihood of disputes arising from overseas travel has increased due to
global threats such as terrorism, political instability and SARS outbreak.

A poll conducted by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development
(CIPD) last month found HR practitioners responsible for managing global
assignments and overseas relocation do not expect activity to stop, despite
such threats. Less than one per cent said they would be cancelling
international staff transfers and just six per cent would impose temporary
holds.

"The key risk for an employer is of an employee jumping ship following
an instruction to travel, resigning and claiming constructive dismissal by
reason of a breakdown in trust and confidence," said David Morgan,
employment partner at Burness. "They may be able to argue that foreign
travel was not, in practice, a contractual requirement."

Employers may be partic-ularly at risk from claims where employees travel
infrequently, as they could argue that "custom and practice" means
any contractual mobility clause is negated, he added.

It is vital to ensure overseas mobility provisions are enshrined in
employees’ contracts with their consent, following consultation, Morgan
advised, and remind staff in writing of existing contractual provisions if
necessary.

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