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Lesley's Column

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8th August 2016

Duty of care vs privacy

Organisations are responsible for their staff from the moment they leave to go on a trip to the moment they come home, even outside office hours.

That applies to everyone, and some staff, in some circumstances, might be more vulnerable than others. Staff might come from the LGBT community or vulnerable religious groups, for example.

Some business travellers are reluctant to disclose information about sexuality or religion, and a balance between company obligation and respecting privacy has to be found.

On the flipside, employees need to remember they are representing their employers and that they have an obligation to act responsibly and avoid doing things that are likely to upset local authorities.

Businesses must invest time to understand overseas markets into which they are sending staff. Travellers asked to go to high-risk destinations need to have more than just a rough guide to interacting with local culture. Information on LGBT risks should be provided when a booking is made to a high-risk country, for example. Pre-trip preparation is critical and is increasingly built into travel risk management programmes.

Homosexuality and public displays of affection are regarded as normal and acceptable in countries like the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain – it’s just normal life. However, when travelling on business to one of the many countries that are less tolerant, it’s crucial the traveller understands cultural differences. There is no room for complacency; being detained and questioned by the authorities is a frightening experience.

Raising awareness is of the utmost importance. Making resources, information and emergency hotlines available are fundamental to safety for all travellers.