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Remote Protection: Duty of Care for overseas staff

by Brian Sims

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means they are responsible for the health and safety of their employees whilst they are at work, either in the UK, or overseas. Employees posted overseas may encounter varied and increased risks to their health, safety and security from man-made risks, political unrest, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and threats to their health. In return, employers are exposed to increased risks of liability. In 2011, International SOS” an international healthcare, medical assistance, and security services company” released statistics indicating that more than 3.5 million overseas visits are made by employees every year, with around 25 per cent of these trips being to high- or extreme-risk destinations. This highlights the necessity for employers to take their duty of care to employees seriously. For many businesses, duty of care is both a legal and an ethical consideration. There is an onus on businesses to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of staff. Equally, companies want to ensure that their staff are able to carry out their duties freely and without compromise. For many businesses, staff are one of the biggest assets, and companies can ill afford to lose them, either due to an incident whilst working, or because the personnel do not feel adequately protected. The legal duty Case law has firmly established that employers must take reasonable steps to ensure the physical and psychological safety of its employees while at work. Employers are under a duty to provide a safe place and system of work, safe plant and equipment, and competent staff. Employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of its employees committed in the course of employment. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA 1974) creates general and specific legal duties on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work, as far as is reasonably practicable. Employers will breach their duty of care towards employees if they fail to do everything expected of a reasonable employer in the circumstances to keep an employee safe. Employers can be held liable for injuries caused to employees working outside the UK. Aside from the damage to an employer’s reputation and finances, employers may be liable, on summary conviction, for damages up to

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