No Image Available

Corporate manslaughter: Transforming how businesses operate

pp_default1

Business travel

Matthew Judge discusses how the new Corporate Manslaughter Act is due to transform business travel and advises on the role HR departments must play when staff travel on company business.


Do your employees travel on domestic or international business? Do you know where they are at each step of their journey, their trains, flights, and hotel arrangements? Have you taken the appropriate duty of care to ensure their safety?

If the answer to any of these questions is no then read on, as the new Corporate Manslaughter Act (Corporate Homicide Act in Scotland) will be coming into force this April and will have a direct impact on how you run your business.

The Act brings with it the new offence of corporate manslaughter/corporate homicide. Put simply, it means that an organisation will be directly responsible, if any of its business activities result in a gross breach of a duty of care that causes the death of an employee/s.

“With the law as it currently stands it has proven virtually impossible to convict a large organisation of corporate manslaughter…”

With the law as it currently stands it has proven virtually impossible to convict a large organisation of corporate manslaughter, as for such prosecutions to succeed, the Crown must identify and prosecute an individual who acted as the ‘directing’ or ‘controlling mind’ of the organisation. Yet as most businesses operate a distributed company structure pinpointing responsibility for such actions is typically diluted.

The maximum penalty for a corporate manslaughter conviction will be an unlimited fine. There are no sentences of imprisonment and whilst this does not signify a change to the existing punishment, it is considered the stigma and cost attached to having such a conviction secured against the organisation will be considerably greater than under existing law. In addition, where a conviction is made the court will have the power to impose an order requiring immediate action to remedy the breaches that led to the incident and failure to comply with this remedial order will be punishable by a further fine.

“One of the main areas that the new act will affect is the management of employees and contractors who travel on corporate business.”

Therefore, it is in the best interests of both the organisation and its employees to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone affected by their activities.

One of the main areas that the new Act will affect is the management of employees and contractors who travel on corporate business. It is true that most larger companies have spent time developing a travel policy, but traditionally these policies are mainly concerned with how the employee books travel, how much they can spend, who the preferred airlines and hotel chains are and how to implement expense management. What organisations don’t consider is when, where and how employees are travelling from a safety and security perspective.

You only have to cast your mind back to the incident in Chechnya, where two engineers were kidnapped and killed, or more recently the abduction of journalists in the Middle East, to understand how the new Corporate Manslaughter Act would be enforced.

It is imperative that every organisation’s travel policy includes a health and safety clause to protect the security of the employee and the business and to prove that the appropriate duty of care has been taken. To achieve this a travel risk management programme will need to be introduced that covers policy, training, traveller tracking and support.

“Crucially, this process needs to be administered and maintained in a manner that allows organisations to produce an auditable log of events for each and every employee’s trip.”

This programme will ensure that travel policies are set correctly, employees are aware and understand them, and should circumstances change whilst the employee is travelling the situation can be identified and the appropriate level of assistance/advise quickly delivered where it is needed to avoid an incident (whether it be potentially fatal or not). Crucially, this process needs to be administered and maintained in a manner that allows organisations to produce an auditable log of events for each and every employee’s trip. It will be this log that will be relied upon as evidence to mount a legal defence, should a prosecution be brought.

Internet-based technologies such as The Anvil Group’s ETMS (Employee Travel Monitoring System) and TRIS (Travel Risk Intelligence Service) have been developed to advance and automate this process. These systems reduce the resource burden associated with managing corporate travel and also allows usage automatically, which means that these systems are easy to adopt and very quick to implement.

The fact of the matter is that no one can yet know how the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act will be utilised by the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown, but be warned, now its bark is as bad as its bite, a successful prosecution will certainly lead to crippling fines and irretrievable, long-term damage to the brand. My advice is to start today with a review of the existing travel policy and begin to take the appropriate measures to ensure that a duty of care is instilled, maintained and demonstrable throughout the entire organisation.


Matthew Judge is director of The Anvil Group.

No Image Available
Newsletter

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.

 

Thank you.

Processing...
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
ErrorHere