Article: Why employers need to sharpen their focus on Duty of Care

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Why employers need to sharpen their focus on Duty of Care

In this interview, Amanda Jones and Kathy Burrows from SIRVA, decodes the concept of Duty of Care and reinventing policies for employees' welfare.
Why employers need to sharpen their focus on Duty of Care

The pandemic has brought duty-of-care, defined as an organization’s responsibility to protect its employees and ensure their safety and security, to the forefront of organizational concerns. Duty of care encompasses many issues in addition to personal safety, including compliance matters (immigration, tax, payroll, etc.), security resources, safe housing options, effective employee tracking, suitable healthcare plans and mental health support, etc., as well as specific pandemic-related support.  

The extreme business disruption that occurred (and is ongoing) has posed unprecedented challenges. In addition to addressing these challenges, mobility teams innovated creative and caring solutions meant to keep employees safe and the business running smoothly during challenging times. Currently, organizations are evaluating what measures they have put into place to support employees during the pandemic, and what is important to implement on a permanent basis.  

SIRVA conducted a pulse survey to explore how organizations approached duty of care before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Download the whitepaper– “Spotlight on Duty of Care” to explore SIRVA’s insights based on the input of 116 organizations on how they are approaching duty of care, and what the future of mobility programs and the work force structure may look like.

The survey concentrates on some important questions for organizations that have emerged during the pandemic: 

  • How are organizations approaching mobility policy changes?
  • What are the new provisions to support post-pandemic mobility?
  • What are the top areas to increase support?

Let's delve deeper into the concept of 'Duty of Care' as shared by Amanda Jones – SVP Sales & Account Management, APAC & Middle East, SIRVA, and Kathy Burrows - Director, Global Advisory Services, SIRVA.

Q: 2020 was a year that no one could have predicted. It was the year of uncertainty and change. Life and work went virtual overnight. In these unprecedented times, how do you see global mobility evolving, and what kind of change and opportunity it brings to the business? 

It is true that 2020 was a very tough year for many businesses globally. Organizations had to be reactive, constantly reviewing their internal policies, responding, and providing solutions given the ever-changing elements brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the pandemic has brought about a whole new set of challenges, it has also presented opportunities and potential for productive change especially in the global mobility space.

The concept of “duty of care” has being thrust into the spotlight. Employers realize that COVID-19 has posed much more than just an inconvenience to employees. Most importantly, focusing on the employees’ welfare has taken precedence.

In our recent Duty of Care Pulse Survey Report, we received input from 116 mobility professionals. 62% responded that they had expanded responsibility for Duty of Care since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, 59% of them said they are more open to listening to employee needs than before. It is definitely encouraging to see increasing number of organizations have shifted towards placing greater emphasis on Duty of Care. It is also evident that employees are also becoming more vocal about their needs during such critical times, requesting for additional support when it comes to global mobility.

Q: As travel restrictions are slowly being uplifted, what are some of the new provisions that organizations have implemented or are considering adopting to support post-pandemic mobility?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on businesses and organizations, who continue to adjust to the continuing challenges while assessing new opportunities that have emerged.  While it is still too early to claim that we are in the post-pandemic stage, our Duty of Care survey shows that organizations are looking at what they have learned, and consequently, are implementing more robust practices expanding the scope of duty of care. These include requiring travel booking through company travel agent, improved employee tracking, mental health services, quarantine support, extended relocation timelines, and sanitizing services.

Q: The pandemic has caused a paradigm shift in the way organizations and employees perceive “work”. Traditional workplace structures have been thrown out the window. How are organizations evaluating differing workplace models?  

Organizations have witnessed changes to virtually every aspect of their workplace, forcing companies to reconsider their future mobility programs and their actual workforce models. The pandemic had a significant impact on the structure of the workforce and has raised some important questions as to how this workforce will look moving forward. As a result of the pandemic, remote work became a mainstay for companies as a business continuity measure. 

Remote work is not a new concept. Many companies have had remote workers and/or workers who have a hybrid work structure where they work at home and in an office setting. There are some companies that have not traditionally embraced the concept of remote work.  Now, the conversation around remote work has changed. For many, what was once expected to be a temporary solution has now become a serious consideration of long-term and/or permanent remote workforce plans. As offices begin to open and people are returning to that work environment, organizations are evaluating the workforce models which will be implemented going forward to meet their organization’s unique needs in the current market and a post-COVID world.  It will be important for decision makers to determine the right approach.  Organizations planning for remote workers must consider duty-of-care as they determine the structure of their programs.

Q: Given the current context of work, and prevalence of remote or partially remote workforces, do you see relocation still important to organizations ?

Yes, relocation will most definitely be important to organizations even with remote workers. Hiring the right talent to be at the right place at the right time will still remain as one of the main priorities for organizations because this is still critical to business success. Mobility plays a significant role in supporting this priority. 

In our Duty of Care Pulse Survey Report, just over half (52%) of respondents said that certain roles may be remote, with parameters including working from within the same country (51%), working within state borders (44%), and working anywhere there is an established entity (35%).

Only 12% of respondents said that workers could truly work from anywhere. It is important to note that the “work from anywhere” concept was more of an immediate response to the pandemic. Now that remote work has evolved, organizations can have more realistic and fact-based discussions on a remote work structure that works for their workforce. Even though hybrid work models may be the norm, relocation is still crucial to ensure businesses continue to achieve their strategic goals by having the right people doing the right jobs at the right place and time.

Q: Many organizations are considering or implementing particular remote work models.   The concept of the workplace has changed significantly and has complex consequences for employers. How do those employers make sure they fulfill their duty of care obligations?

Organizations planning for remote workers must consider duty-of-care as they determine the structure of their programs.  In our survey report, we have detailed the additional areas of support employers have adopted for remote work models.

Knowing where employees are at any given time is a significant element of an organization’s duty-of-care. Effectively tracking all employees remains as the key to providing better real-time support and ensuring employee safety and security. Employee tracking and reporting has been an ongoing concern throughout the past year, as organizations were blindsided by the impact of the pandemic and required to react to ever-changing situations. Without sufficient guidance regarding expectations on how employees should be tracked or to self-report their whereabouts, organizations experienced challenges when attempting to locate employees. This will continue to be a concern for companies that implement remote worker models and should be considered as a part of program development and management. 

Duty of care may now include guidance regarding compliance (immigration, tax, payroll, etc.), security resources,  suitable healthcare, and mental health resources.  Additionally, more employers  require employees  to book their travels through the official company travel provider to ensure accurate and timely tracking.

It is without a doubt that COVID-19 has been a game changer for organizations around the world but yet, it is undeniable that the pandemic has opened up opportunities for change in workplace models and enhanced duty of care practices and responsibilities.   

Q:  How can your recently released pulse survey “Spotlight on Duty of Care” help talent leaders and mobility professionals further strategize their mobility programs?

The aim of the survey is to explore how organizations approached duty of care before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We gathered feedback from 116 mobility practitioners from organizations of all sizes and industry sectors. We hope that through this survey, talent leaders and mobility professionals could gain better insight into how organizations worldwide cope, adapt and innovate to the effects of the pandemics and provide a more wholistic mobility program. COVID-19 was a setback but through our survey, we find out many employers are turning challenges into opportunities and building platforms to better reach out and support their employees.

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Topics: Employee Relations, Employee Engagement

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