Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Implications

By Sheryl Hill, Mary Ellen Gornick

In about a day, you can get just about anywhere in the world. Businesses deploy their workforces for overseas commerce, and their employees also enjoy vacations far from home. But people are also traveling to countries during times of terrorism, civil unrest, natural disasters, crime, and even disease. They need travel safety skills, and tools to avoid risks, obtain appropriate help overseas when necessary, and to return home safely. International travel comes
with a duty to warn and a duty of care and loyalty.

Defining Key Terms

Duty of Care –

The Business Dictionary defines the duty of care as, “The responsibility or the legal obligation of a person or organization to avoid acts or omissions (which can be reasonably foreseen) to be likely to cause harm to others.” Failing duty of care can result in injury and even death giving rise to hefty personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit settlements. International SOS reported that cases like these are no longer rare. For example, an infrastructure engineering company was sued in California by a former employee who had been wrongly imprisoned in Qatar, who alleged his employer did not properly warn him of the risk associated with the position. (Huang v.
MWH Global).

Duty to Warn –

Duty to warn arises when there is an obligation to inform others of danger, such as U.S. Department of State country-specific alerts and warnings like “do not travel to Iran” or “reconsider travel to Mexico” and Centers for Disease Control alerts such as, “Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Duty of Loyalty –

Duty of loyalty is an employee’s obligation toward their company to refrain from activities and behaviors on a business trip that would be contrary to the employer’s best interests, such as compliance to risk management policies and extended business trips for leisure purposes. The employee has a duty to book trips on preapproved airlines, stay in preapproved accommodations, and avoid public transit when requested as the employer’s travel policy dictates.

The Problem: A Growing Need

Some Fortune 500 companies have entire divisions dedicated to travel security and risk management. But, if you ask those same companies who is safeguarding their workforce for vacation travel purposes, you’ll probably get blank stares. It can cost a 6-9 month salary to replace an employee if they become seriously hurt, sick, or killed overseas. Moreover, if you search for trusted, statistically meaningful data on travel-related illness, injury, death, missing persons, and incarcerations by a neutral third party, you’ll be hard pressed to find it. In addition, the World Health Organization cites psychiatric trauma as a leading cause of emergency medical evacuation of travelers. Despite this fact, most travel insurance companies do not cover mental health. This is another reason why the EAP should consider adding travel safety to their suite of services.

The Problem: Policies are Lacking

United States travel and tourism safety policies are lacking, especially when compared to other countries. This presents a paradox, because although there are few rules setting the bar for a company’s duty to inform about risks at the destination or their duty to care for people on trips when they are threatened, hurt, sick, arrested, missing, or killed; the lack of any law in a jurisdiction does not relieve a U.S. business of legal and moral obligations. Compliance with international duty of care laws in other countries is crucial. For instance, the United Kingdom Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2017 is a landmark law that clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies. This includes large organizations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality. Despite business efforts to improve security, manage travel risks, and develop safeguards, U.S. companies continue to fail in their duty to warn and duty of care.

Best Practices

Employee assistance professionals have an opportunity to make a major impact in duty of care and duty to inform issues by collaborating with human resource professionals and other workplace managers to encourage workplace
behaviors that will result in compliance for less stressful, safer journeys abroad. EAPs can offer their clients “preparedness programs” such as the:

Depart Smart™ Travel Safety Assessment and Travel HEROES™ Safety Certification;
International SOS Foundation Duty of Care Accreditation;
Global Business Travel Association Self-Assessment

Depart Smart is an example of a award-winning, consumer-driven company that EAPs can partner with to add an EAP service to help international travelers and expatriates assess travel safety readiness. Examples include a ten-point travel safety savvy quiz, and an online travel safety certification course helping travelers build a personal safety emergency plan so they can get themselves out of troublesome situations. The ideal point of employee notification and engagement is prior to booking a trip abroad for any reason, work or vacation. A travel request is one example of an alert to the EA professional to offer travel safety assessments or training to the employee and then check off readiness for safe travels. The travel safety savvy course is free. Travel Safety Certification is priced at just $50 per person.  Per employee per month pricing models are available on a customized basis.

Depart Smart offers the Travel HEROES course to EAPs at individual rates of only $50 each and group rates at $1-1.52 Per Employee Per Month (PEPM) depending on volume. Group rates are offered with a promotion code. Employees receive an email with a link to enroll, or a pre-registered username and passcode depending on client preferences. Larger companies can provide an import list for bulk user registration, with custom introductory emails for engagement and participation. Depart Smart also offers a custom-branded administrative portal for EAPs and employers who want to manage their users, track utilization and progress by location, or customize the delivery of the online course, including an integrated online forum. Workshops and webinars are
offered at custom pricing depending on the number of attendees and how many destinations are included. A custom proposal is provided to the EAP to meet agreedupon goals and develop orientation and implementation plans.
The number-one client feedback Depart Smart receives is that peace of mind is priceless and that their program relieves the stress of travel because having mechanisms and skills to navigate troubles abroad is empowering and lifesaving. As mental health professionals, EAPs can play a major role in reducing stress and improving mental health for employee business travelers and expatriates.

International SOS Duty of Care Accreditation – The International SOS Foundation was started with a grant from International SOS in 2011 to improve the health, safety, security, and well-being of people working away from home, internationally and on assignment. The  International SOS Foundation offers a unique opportunity for EAPs interested in developing inhouse expertise in supporting international business travelers through an accredited “Duty of Care” training program, “Safety, Health and Security for the Mobile Worker.” The course provides EAPs with knowledge and skills to assist companies in fulfilling their duties to warn and care for employees abroad by developing and communicating travel safety policies. The course costs upwards of $1575 per person, not including transportation and lodging.

The Global Business Travel Association Self-Assessment – The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has another useful resource: the Travel Risk Management Maturity Model (TRM3™) Self-Assessment Tool. TRM3 is designed to help a company assess their readiness for handling duty of care issues with a 45-minute course that includes questions on risk assessment, risk monitoring, response and recovery, and others. The TRM3 online tool is free for GBTA members. An EAP can help support corporate clients and their employees determine duty of care readiness with tools like TRM3. TRM3 is free for GBTA members.


Empowering your workforce with skills and tools to identify and avoid risks, and to take appropriate actions when unavoidable accidents happen on foreign soil prevents injury, saves time, money, and lives. Travel Safety standardized training can have a direct impact on a healthier workforce and ulitmately your company’s bottom line. Join the travel safety movement and earn Depart Smart’s Seal of Approval today!

Reprinted with the permission of the Employee Assistance Report.