‘Anyone exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally or in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect’.
It is becoming more and more important that companies are seen to be inclusive, non-discriminatory and supportive of diverse workforces. In the world of business travel, it is sometimes overlooked that an individual who is not usually considered vulnerable, can actually become vulnerable when travelling.
HOW WELL DOES YOUR TRAVEL POLICY ACCOMMODATE THESE TRAVELLERS?
A good travel policy should aim to accommodate specialist needs without discriminating or appearing to single out individuals. There can be serious consequences if your travel programme is not catering for specialist needs in the event of any incident that occurs as a direct result of not having provisions in place. There are a few areas of consideration when reviewing your travel policy:
This could be both offline or online. Personalised systems can ‘save*’ preferences so that users will be prompted for add-ons such as preferential seating (extra leg room), airport meet and greet or dietary requirements for airline meals. Often if the provider is aware of any specialist needs from time of booking, they can better accommodate the traveller throughout their trip. Many vulnerabilities are not physical and will not be immediately obvious to members of staff.
Offline teams should get to know their travellers on a personal level and be proactive in ensuring there is no need to make the same requests for each booking. Agents can really prove their worth in this area by going the extra mile to make travel more comfortable for these travellers.
An example of this could be a member of staff staying at a hotel near the company office. When no car is organised, that staff member makes their way back to the hotel on their own and with limited knowledge of the area could find themselves in an undesirable location. If anything did happen here, the company could be seen as negligent if not offering safer options.
Companies cannot always control the decisions individuals take whilst travelling, such as a night out in the city. However, there should be sufficient support and provisions that will encourage them to plan ahead and make smarter decisions. Providing maps, navigational support and certified suppliers would help put travellers minds at ease.
These could also include easy access to ground transportation options where payment can be provided by the company, an in-country point of contact either within the company or at the TMC and a 24/7 contact number in the event of an emergency.
User Friendly Systems
Travel Management Companies (TMC’s) should always be looking to make their booking tools and systems as user friendly as possible whether this is through functionality, consistency, colour, ease of navigation or even font size. This is of benefit to everyone, not just vulnerable travellers.
Travellers should be able to access the systems when they are out and about through tablets, desktops or mobile apps. Prominently displaying call to actions such as ‘book now’ buttons, security alerts, safety updates and emergency contacts can provide piece of mind for both the traveller and the company.
Sometimes it is not about singling out individual needs, but about putting yourself in your travellers’ shoes. Really thinking about what the specific challenges are, and picking out ways in which to make it more comfortable and a better overall experience.
Global companies might consider policy amends that accommodate cultural or environmental challenges, such as providing staff with translation support or weather updates for their destination.
It could even include prompts as to local dress and acceptable behaviour. It is important that your travel policy is always evolving and you shouldn’t be afraid to add new sections to accommodate changing needs.
One example is a Hillgate customer that has a high demand for staff travel from India to Europe. Their policy states that in the months between November and March, employees travelling this route are eligible for an additional expense claim of INR 15,000. Although the policy does not specify what it is for, this allowance is to support with winter clothing for these travellers – in February the average temperature could be 25 degrees in India and just 6 degrees in the UK! The extra expense enables the traveller to purchase some more suitable attire for the trip.
AND IN THE FUTURE…
There will always be things that can be added and amended and your travel policy should be something that is flexible and kept up to date. As the needs of the business will change, so will the needs of your travellers.
Travel suppliers will try and learn about your traveller needs and preferences. Where technology was facilitating this, the introduction of GDPR may affect the amount of data that can be held on individuals so there will be a learning curve here in the coming months.
As duty of care becomes more and more prevalent for companies that do a lot of travelling, ensuring the comfort and safety for all travellers will top the agenda. Due diligence towards the diverse needs of travellers will demonstrate that your company is an investor in their people with a sustainable vision for the future.
There are many trade specific organisations that can support with legislation and grey areas around vulnerable customers. For female travellers, Maiden Voyage offer some good advice and tips on staying safe. A first point of call could be your TMC and a review of your current travel policy. It is also worth asking your suppliers what extra amenities might be on offer. Hotels such as the Grange St Paul’s Hotel offer ‘a limited number of female friendly rooms, which include special amenities for female travellers and business women’ as an example. *within GDPR guidelines
Hillgate Travel supports our clients with their travel policies, reviewing and advising on best practice. If this is something you would like to find out about, please contact your Hillgate Account Manager.