HR has a key role to play in extricating and supporting employees facing risks in Ukraine and Russia, as Putin’s invasion continues.
Employees of multinational firms remaining in Russia have been advised by global health and security consultancy International SOS that they face considerable risks.
Mick Sharp, group director, security services, International SOS, told Personnel Today that these individuals should be prepared for restricted access to banking systems and cash, limitation on movements and shortages of imported items.
He said: “Organisations and business leaders, including HR, should be consistently reviewing risk assessments of individuals in Russia, and be providing advice around legal restrictions and interruptions to diplomatic support for foreign nationals.”
International SOS issued an evacuation notice to its clients in Ukraine itself on 12 February, 12 days before conflict broke out. For several months before this, the firm sent reports highlighting the rapidly growing tensions and the implications for organisations operating in the country.
In January, the health and security services firm deployed an incident management team in Ukraine to bolster its operational planning with key providers in preparation for conflict. This is still at work in the country supporting the internal relocation and evacuation of clients.
Sharp said it was notable that the tech, medical, telecoms, professional services and manufacturing sectors had been particularly affected by the crisis, and this was where International SOS had been particularly high levels of support.
He added that accurate information was crucial for the successful outcome of the company’s operations. “In terms of the challenges that organisations and individuals in the region are facing there are several that really stand-out,” he said. “Access to apolitical and verifiable information is vital, given the various competing sources of information which surround the crisis. Without this information, it can be difficult for business leaders to make appropriate decision making in a timely manner.
“Of course, the physical risks which can impact individuals in areas seeing combat activity are a significant challenge as well. Relocation out of these areas should be a priority, but where this is not possible individuals should prepare to seek shelter, potentially for significant periods of time. In such instances, access to food, water, medication and other essential goods should be a priority.
He added that HR played a vital role by creating individual risk assessments that were tailored to employees’ risk profiles. “It’s good news that HR managers have become more involved in crisis management teams,” he said. “Using these risk assessments, organisations can then decide what is feasible around relocation or evacuation. Again, this is an area where International SOS has been supporting throughout the crisis.”
Mental health was a further area of great concern for employees, many of whom had friends and family in conflict zones, Sharp added, so the company was committed to providing teleconsultation support for clients’ employees.