The ISO 31030 standard, introduced in April 2021, will assist companies manage business travel risks and be examined and used by courts as a benchmark in litigation. As HR directors are increasing involved in risk and crisis management, it is a useful tool for those needing advice on processes that protect employees, writes Xavier Carn.
Earlier this year, the new ISO 31030 standard, providing guidance around travel risk management was introduced by the International Organization for Standardization. It aims to help organisations all over the world manage their workforce travel risks, an issue that we know is increasingly complex due to the challenging circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
With that in mind, it’s important to be clear on what the new standard is and where it has come from.
The ISO 31030 standard is not unprecedented. In many ways, it follows preceding guidance such as the British Standard Institute’s PAS 3001 Code of Practice, which was introduced in 2016.
Drawing on significant expertise from professionals across a variety of sectors, the ISO standard contains vital information about the processes and tools that organisations should look to embrace when considering how best to protect travelling employees. Notably, the standard includes four clear areas that organisations should consider:
- Scoping the context of international travel risk management – helping an organisation define its risk criteria
- Building a travel risk management process – providing guidance to help organisations identify, analyse, evaluate and manage the risk affecting travellers
- Journey and operational management – which includes practical steps that organisations should take to prepare travellers including training, compliance processes, and establishing communication channels. Organisations should also implement controls – such as booking/approval systems, as well as destination monitoring. They should also be prepared to manage incidents, creating tools or systems which highlight how to notify travellers or activate a crisis response.
- How an organisation can record and report on its travel risk management policy, with the aim of improving its resilience over time
Overseas and remote working
This guidance is not just aimed at large multinational organisations. In fact, the standard arguably applies to any organisation that bears responsibility for keeping employees safe and meeting duty of care responsibilities when they are travelling. Notably, this should not only include direct employees, but also volunteers or contractors for instance, meaning that a wide scope of organisations should be included when considering where the ISO standard should apply.
Given the scope of the ISO standard there are several business functions that will be more involved with implementing some of the best practice that it recommends. Examples include:
- HR directors
- Medical and security directors
- Travel managers
- Risk managers
This is down to the fact that these professionals are likely to be involved in organising international travel for employees, or at least setting the policies that govern it as an activity. Notably, the complexities caused by the pandemic have had a significant effect on the role of the HR professional, as the function is now more likely to be involved in managing the medical and security risks that employees face, including when travelling.
- For those organisations that do look to implement the standard, we’d expect it to help manage various situations that their employees might face, such as:
- Informing employees on the organisation’s travel risk management policy
- Sharing information on medical and security risks with employees, as well as advice around risk mitigation prior to travelling. For example, if an employee is travelling to a country with a complex geo-political situation with potential for civil unrest, it’s vital that they’re made aware before travelling, and also know what to do and how to react if they are affected.
- Being able to locate employees potentially impacted by a medical or a security situation – if employees are in an area affected by risks, they need to be easily contactable and locatable to help manage duty of care responsibilities.
- Being able to assist employees faced with an incident or a crisis on the ground
Notably, the complexities caused by the pandemic have had a significant effect on the role of the HR professional”
For HR professionals the ISO 31030 standard should be considered a valuable resource, given the serious situations that it can help manage. This is particularly true when considering that many HR directors have been brought into crisis management teams – teams that would be activated if employees were to be affected be a serious geopolitical or civil disturbance.
If HR professionals and their organisations are looking for practical support with the ISO 31030 standard, resources such as the International SOS Foundation, an independent non-profit founded in 2011 with a grant from International SOS, can help. Already, the foundation has created a variety of training materials which organisations can access if they’re looking to implement the ISO 31030 standard – these will be available from the end of November.
In addition to the activity of the foundation, at International SOS our medical and security consulting practice is also on-hand to support our clients, such as by conducting gap analyses which compare existing travel risk management policies and the ISO standard. For those experts looking to demonstrate their knowledge and their organisation’s compliance with the standard, particularly in the context of an increasingly busy travel landscape, it’s important to keep in mind:
- There is not yet a certification body; however, it is clear that the guidance will be examined and used by courts as a benchmark in future litigations
- Organisations can demonstrate compliance with the standard by setting up a travel risk management policy drafted by their key stakeholders responsible for international travel, and communicate this to their employees
- Ideally, this will compare favourably with the maturity model presented in the ISO 31030 standard
While the ISO 31030 standard does provide detailed guidance for organisations looking to implement travel risk management policies, the most important thing they can do is be proactive, and remain aware of the risks that travellers might be exposed to. This is where organisations like International SOS can really help, being able to provide detailed and up-to-date information no matter the needs of the traveller in question.