International business travel: employer responsibilities

International business travel: health and safety

Guide

Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. In instances where you may need to meet with customers or suppliers in other geographical locations you should use online meeting facilities.

See foreign travel advice.

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of your employees. Therefore, on a trip-by-trip basis, you should assess the potential risks facing employees who need to travel to other countries to work for your business. See foreign travel advice for information on specific countries.

See what you need to do about health and safety and health and safety risk assessment.

Medical preparation for business travel

You must also be sure employees are fit to travel and work abroad. Before journeying to certain countries, vaccinations may be required. Staff that plan to travel for business should make an appointment with a GP at least six weeks before travelling to find out whether they need any immunisations or medication. Find out whether the employee needs to be aware of any specific health risks, eg malaria, and make sure they have necessary medication. Foreign travel advice.

If the employee is taking prescribed medication, check it is legal in the destination to which they are travelling. Be sure to provide general health advice where necessary, such as the need to drink plenty of clean, bottled water when visiting hot countries.

Health insurance
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will be valid if staff are travelling to an EU country. If staff have a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it will be valid until the expiry date on the card. Once it expires, they’ll need to apply for a GHIC to replace it. Apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card.

If they are travelling to Norway they can use a UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare (for example emergency treatment, or to treat a pre-existing condition). If they’re travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, they should get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before they travel. Make sure it covers any pre-existing conditions that were previously covered by their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

See foreign travel insurance.

Who can apply for a new EHIC
Some people can apply for a new UK EHIC that they can use in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, as well as in EU countries.

People who can apply for the new card include:

  • nationals from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who started living in the UK before 1 January 2021, and their families
  • some British State Pensioners who started living in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein before 1 January 2021, and their families
  • UK students who started living and studying in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein before 1 January 2021

Apply for a new UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

You must make sure employees are adequately insured against illness and injury while working in different countries. You should seek professional advice on this.

Employees must also know what to do in the event of a medical emergency. Details should be included in your employment policies. Storing the number of local emergency services (ie the overseas equivalent of 999) into a mobile phone is wise. You should have procedures in place should an employee suffer illness or injury while travelling for business.

Staying safe when travelling for business

As in the UK, the key to staying safe while overseas is not taking risks. Employees should not travel to unfamiliar places or show too much trust in strangers. Nor should they accept lifts or other offers (eg guided tours).

Valuable possessions should not be displayed in public, because it increases the chances of being robbed. Passports, valuables and credit cards (at least one) should be kept in the hotel safe. Carrying excessive cash is inadvisable. Money should be kept hidden.

Employees should be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. These activities might be misunderstood, especially near police or military installations. Full cooperation with local police and official agencies is advised.

Emergency measures when abroad

If money, a passport or anything else is stolen or an assault or serious crime takes place, it must be reported to the local police immediately. For example you may need to provide a police report if you wish to claim on insurance for lost or stolen goods.

Any stolen credit cards or travellers cheques should be cancelled straight away.

In the event of a serious emergency, you can call the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Consular Assistance team on Tel 020 7008 1500.

Depending on the circumstances and if travelling on a UK passport, the British Embassy may be able to, for example:

  • issue replacement passports
  • provide help if your employee has been a victim of crime or is in hospital
  • provide details of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors

Worldwide British consulates and embassies.

An employee may alternatively be travelling on an Irish passport in which case they should contact the Irish embassy or consulate in the location they are in if they need consular assistance when abroad.