Norwegian Duty of Care Whitepaper
TRAVEL INSURANCE IS NOT ENOUGH WHEN YOU SEND EMPLOYEES ABROAD
Norwegian employers need to be proactive and conduct proper risk assessments before sending employees abroad if they are serious about Duty of Care, says new white paper from law firm Kluge and the International SOS Foundation. However, a recent study indicates that only 1 in 3 organisations proactively educate their travellers before they go abroad.
Increased international activity from Norwegian organisations has resulted in a higher number of employees going abroad, exposing them to new risks to their health, safety and wellbeing. To mitigate these risks, employers have both a legal and a moral obligation to fulfil their duty of care towards employees.
The new paper outlines the Norwegian employer’s responsibilities towards the health and safety of their employees, as well as preventive principles, including travel risk policies, risk assessments, training, tracking and communication.
Roar Storrø, General Manager Norway with International SOS believes that Norwegian organisations should do more to assess the travel security and health risks when sending their employees abroad:
“In our experience, many Norwegian organisations believe that travel insurance is enough to cover their responsibility to their international travellers. Unfortunately, insurance is just one component of supporting their staff while abroad. Much more can be done to mitigate risks to their travelling staff.”
Although ‘duty of care’ is not a legal definition in Norway, the Working Environment Act from 2005 states that employers are obligated to secure a safe working environment for their employees, and with a welfare standard in line with the technological and social evolution in society.
While the WEA is limited to Norwegian territory, the employer is still obligated to meet certain provisions in the period prior to the assignment. The employer needs to assess risk, inform travellers of risks involved, and ensure employees receive the required training to carry out the assignment, and that the employee is capable of handling a crisis if the project is located in a high-risk area.
Anders Stenbrenden, partner and employment law expert at Kluge law firm, said:
“Not all Norwegian companies are sufficiently aware of the responsibility involved in sending employees to work in foreign countries. Larger companies are more likely to conduct a thorough risk assessment and train their employees in crisis management, but smaller and medium-sized businesses may not see the need for it or have the resources and competence needed. The lack of preparation of employees can have serious consequences for both the organisation and the employee.”
An important case for Norwegian legal precedence occurred last year when a former employee of the Norwegian Refugee Council received 460k Euro in damages after being shot and kidnapped on a mission in Dadaab, Kenya. The conclusion from the Oslo District Court was that the Norwegian Refugee Council had acted negligent.
“This judgement is important in principle because it shows what Norwegian organisations are risking if a court finds breach of duty of care obligations. The judgement also shows that Norwegian businesses should be diligent in their planning before sending employees to work abroad. Pre-travel preparation, travel insurance, and assistance services must work together for the safety of the employee and the business.”
The white paper was presented at a breakfast seminar on 31 May, in Aker Solutions’ offices in Fornebu, Oslo. View the paper on the International SOS Foundation website.
About International SOS Foundation
Established in 2011, the International SOS Foundation ― Ambassadors for Duty of Care www.internationalsosfoundation.org – has the goal of improving the safety, security, health and welfare of people working abroad or on remote assignments through the study, understanding and mitigation of potential risks. The escalation of globalization has enabled more individuals to work across borders and in unfamiliar environments; exposure to risks which can impact personal health, security and safety increases along with travel.
The foundation is a registered charity and was started with a grant from International SOS. It is a fully independent, non-profit organization. The Foundation is currently in the process of setting up an experienced, independent governing Board of Trustees to steer its vision, objectives and future results.