At a time when public healthcare services are often overwhelmed, companies must put the right emergency support in place for their travellers, says Annabelle Neame, HCA UK Concierge Centre
Whilst holidays and family visits are finally resuming this summer, business travel is still tiptoeing after the pandemic-forced hiatus.
There is much debate about when business travel will resume in full, with the emergence of new variants, uncertainty around border restrictions and the varying success of vaccination rollouts across the globe making it tough to predict when the old patterns of work travel will return.
Ultimately, the pandemic is continuing to affect the security, medical and global logistical environments, this in turn placing an even greater emphasis on an employer’s duty of care to its employees, especially when travelling abroad.
International business travel is now an entirely different ball game, so for businesses looking to resume this part of their operations, there are adjustments that need to be made for this to happen safely. Travel risk assessment processes, travel policies and medical insurance packages must all be reconsidered to ensure these are robust, appropriate and up to date.
“International business travel is now an entirely different ball game”
Starting with travel risk assessments, these must take Foreign Office advice into account, as well as Covid-19 infection rates and the healthcare systems of the countries employees will be visiting. Reputational and commercial risks should also be considered to determine whether a business trip is viable or not.
Travel policies must be flexible, allowing employees to opt out of travel should they wish to do so. Firms should consider blocking business trips to high-risk destinations, limiting the number of travellers per trip and recommending that employees book flexible rates for transport and accommodation, which can be cancelled or amended with ease. Shared accommodation should be avoided and employers should also recommend car rental rather than encouraging their staff to use public transport.
When it comes to travel and medical insurance policies, it is imperative these are updated to cover events either directly or indirectly caused by Covid-19. When amending medical insurance policies, another option firms should consider is concierge healthcare.
“Reputational and commercial risks should also be considered to determine whether a business trip is viable”
Within most organisations, there are individuals whose absence may directly impact operations. This risk is always greater when those individuals are travelling and it has been exacerbated even further by the additional barriers to healthcare, which now exist due to the pandemic.
The benefit of concierge healthcare services is that they provide a single point of contact, where all healthcare needs can be addressed and navigated no matter how time sensitive or complex. At HCA UK, our Rapid Response Referral responds to requests within two hours, ensuring patients receive a seamless service and removing the stressful and time-consuming process of finding and arranging your own healthcare.
There are particular benefits to investing in concierge healthcare for travelling executives, particularly at this time, as the service providers are fully equipped to navigate the additional challenges of providing emergency cross-border healthcare and arranging ICU to ICU transfers all over the world, at a time at which many public healthcare services are often overwhelmed. Such personalised services are of course more costly but they provide seamless access to care for individuals and businesses when trauma or illness occurs overseas.
Although experts are unsure as to when business travel might fully resume, there is no doubt that it eventually will. The benefits of face to face communication are unrivalled, so for any businesses considering resuming business travel, whether that’s one month or six months away, it’s vital to get ahead of the game now to ensure this is done in a manner which is safe and secure for both employee and employer.
Annabelle Neame is Director of International Business Development for HCA UK Concierge Centre