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How can an organization ensure the safety and security of expatriates and other employees in high-risk areas?

Before any employee enters a high-risk area, an employer should recognize and establish their duty of care and create and communicate an emergency plan to all affected employees. Duty of care is a legal concept that means that an individual or organization will adhere to a reasonable standard of care when taking actions that could harm others. Employers have a global duty of care to their employees for their safety and security, which includes expatriates and their families living and working abroad.

Increasingly, more employers are sending their employees into developing countries where living conditions could become dangerous. International HR consulting agencies can often provide location evaluation reports to help employers identify the factors to consider in establishing appropriate systems that will determine the level of hardship an expatriate may be subjected to during international assignments. Such reports may include levels of crime, availability of a police force and even reports on water pollution that could seriously endanger an employee’s life.

Although an organization will not be able to anticipate every risk an employee may be faced with, there are steps an employer can take to plan for and communicate challenges that may arise. First and foremost, executive buy-in will be critical to the success of a program designed to provide protection for employees working abroad. No international assignment strategy would be complete without the full support of the executive team and the budgetary funds to back up emergency plan creation and implementation.

Secondly, it is crucial to prepare a plan that equips employees with the necessary resources to deal with various types of emergencies. Information on what steps to take and whom to contact in the event of an unplanned disaster must be clearly and regularly communicated to all affected employees. Several resources are available to assist employers in preparing a business emergency plan and a business continuity plan. The Department of Homeland Security has developed a website, Ready Business, with tools to help employers develop the right plan. The Ready Business site also includes information on talking with your employees and protecting company investments. During a crisis, monitor the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs home page and the home page for the U.S. Embassy in the foreign country for up-to-date crisis information. U.S. government agencies such as the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and provide resources on planning, preparing and communicating an emergency plan to all employees faced with an unexpected disaster.


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