Duty of care obligations necessary during Russian and Ukrainian turmoil

Posted on Sep 11, 2014

Tensions are rising yet again between Ukraine and Russia, which could increase the travel concerns for U.S. businesses sending corporate travelers abroad. According to The Associated Press, the Ukraine is accusing Russian forces of entering its territory with heavy artillery, ground troops and tanks, which has quickly intensified the engagement between both sides.

FCO and DOS advising against travel around Ukrainian border

The conflict between the two nations has caused the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to advise against any travel within a 10-kilometer radius of the Donetsk Ukrainian border, Relocate magazine reported.

Additionally, on Aug. 29, the U.S. Department of State advised citizens to avoid travel to eastern Ukraine due to the continuous violent actions between their forces and Russian-backed separatists in the regions around Donetsk and Luhansk. The department added that U.S. citizens have been kidnapped, detained and threatened at illegal checkpoints for hours or even days.

President Barack Obama once again advised Russian forces to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the AP reported.

"We agree - if there was ever any doubt - that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine," Obama said in an official statement. "The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia."

Duty of care obligations critical for businesses

With the additional threats surrounding the two Ukrainian regions, organizations should follow certain duty of care practices to protect their workers traveling abroad. When firms send workers into high-risk areas, they have a responsibility for their safety while traveling for work. 

When major global events happen across the world, businesses sometimes forget to brief their employees before they take off. According to Buying Business Travel, duty of care obligations are not restricted to one department. Instead, human resources, risk management, occupational safety and health managers, senior management and the travel department all have an obligation to protect workers while abroad.

According to the source, the best way to prepare travelers who could even be near high-risk areas is through increased communication. Travel policies, briefing and confirmations should all be mandatory for corporate travelers.

"It is all very well having a policy that says not to drive after an eight-hour flight, but if it is not mandated someone could drive and have an accident," said Keith Burgess, general counsel and central services director at HRG, according to the source. "Companies need to protect employees from perceived danger and protect themselves from liability."

Russian officials are denying the allegations of entering Ukrainian land with military forces. According to the AP, officials are saying the troops are simply "Russian volunteers," but NATO recently announced that 1,000 troops had entered Ukraine along with self-propelled artillery units.

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