Legal framework - The Working Environment Act from 2005
Nordic governments have tried to regulate the responsibility of employers sending employees abroad. In Norway for instance, the Working Environment Act from 2005 (WEA) lays down the obligation employers have towards their employees that would be considered pertinent when sending employees on international assignments.
To Norwegian authorities, one of the aims of the WEA is to secure a work environment that is both physically and mentally secure and has a welfare standard in line with the technological and social evolution in society, c.f Section 1-1.
The WEA applies to all employees performing work for an employer, both permanent and on contract. According to the WEA, the employer has to deal with working environment issues in a systematic and orderly way.
That is, the employer must put in place action plans; risk analysis, routine documents and follow-up procedures to prevent work-related illness and accidents, and by doing this achieve a safe and sound working environment both physically and mentally.
What employers can do
Broadly speaking, duty of care responsibilities can be grouped into three categories, before, during and after travel.
Before international assignment
- Ensure that the employee is suitable to conduct the work in question i.e. regarding education, training, experience, personal health in relations to occupational and destination risk etc.
- Inform him or her about the risks and dangers involved in the assignment – both related risk as well as the general situation in the destination country.
- Train the employee to avoid such risks and danger.
- Inform about how best to use their international health, travel and expat insurance in case of an emergency.
During international assignment
- Have regular contact. For employees on long term international assignment, employers should periodically follow up to ensure that their personal health in relations to occupational and destination risk is adequately protected.
- Ensure that there is a robust report structure for employees to follow. This will ensure consistency.
- Plan for emergencies. In high risk geographical areas, have an insurance coverage that is capable to protect, keep safe and inform all parties about necessary developments.
After international assignment
- Provide homecoming information ahead of employees return.
- Conduct post-assignment debriefs to ensure that employees personal health in relations to occupational and destination risk has been and is adequately protected.
- Ensure continuous learning. Contact your insurance partner to debrief and reflect on the experience.
The above shows that, as employers, duty of care responsibilities are both a moral and legal obligation what we owe to our employees.
Gilbert Kofi Adarkwah