[Letters] Employers’ ‘duty of care’ for expatriatesThe number of expatriates and business travelers going to developing countries is increasing as Korean corporations expand investment into the emerging markets. Generally, living in developing countries means you are exposed to higher risks due to less-developed medical service infrastructure, and other risks travelers are routinely exposed to when they are away from familiar surroundings. Yet, most overseas assignees are not adequately briefed and prepared prior to travel by their companies and therefore when an incident occurs they may not know how to respond appropriately.
Some situations will be worse than one can normally think of. For example, imagine you have to receive a surgery for appendicitis but the local hospital you’ve been brought into has no blood for transfusion, or you cannot be assured of the service reliability. So now you have to weigh the option of being transferred to the nearest place of medical excellence, which can be a complicated and costly affair. Even after such a cross-border medical evacuation is done, unless you speak the local language or English fluently, you may not receive the same type of treatment you are familiar with in Korea. Accidents and illness often come without warning. Unless you have a well planned and organized risk management system in place, all you can do then is to pray that nothing bad will happen to you.
Today’s communication technology and air transportation system are very well advanced. The safety and well-being of your employees in unfamiliar countries are no longer subject to the will of God but of human beings. Companies have to proactively prepare a risk management plan and train their employees solidly, and assess various aspects on the local environment. Such assessment should cover the quality and availability of local medical services and how to carry out medical or security evacuation. So the plan should be very specific to address how to access or activate ground and air transportation, medical escort team, medical equipment and medicines for patient transportation, etc. Employers can leverage access to a global network of medical professionals and security specialists with necessary language support systems for Korean, English and other major foreign languages. Many countries in Western Europe and North America have already legislated to implement such a risk management practice a duty for employers, so-called duty of care. Actually more than 80 percent of multinational companies in Korea are fulfilling their duty of care using such a global network to minimize the safety risks to their employees and dependents, even though Korea is hardly regarded as a less-developed country.
As globalization further evolves, Korean companies will continue to send more employees to foreign countries especially to the emerging markets. Companies have to upgrade the risk management for their international assignees and business travelers up to a global standard. The shift of the risk management paradigm will enhance not only the well-being of the employees but more importantly the productivity of the organization.
Lee Myung-sub, General Manager of International SOS Korea
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