After over a year of an ever-evolving COVID-19 crisis and reduced travel, business travel is once again on the rise. It also means that it’s a great time to update your business travel policy.
OSHA’s Guidance on Returning to Work recommends that non-essential business travel be limited during the pandemic; therefore, employers will need to continue to balance employee safety and business operations. Depending on vaccination rates and health and safety guidance at your destination, your policy might require different rules and/or guidelines.
In order to limit business travel risks, many organizations dramatically reduced business travel to essential travel during the first year of the pandemic. For example, team meetings and company events that were previously held in person were instead held virtually. Furthermore, a recent Bloomberg survey of 45 large businesses revealed that companies will continue to limit reduce business travel:
“84% of large businesses plan to spend less on business travel post-pandemic”
Additionally, Federal OSHA’s “General Duty Clause” in Section 5(a)(1) requires employers to:
“[F]urnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees…”
Arguably this could mean that an employer couldn’t force employees to travel to unsafe travel areas, such as CDC Level 4 destinations, US countries with high risk, or indoor locations without mask requirements, for example.
3 business travel policy considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Employers should review existing business travel policy to ensure compliance with local health and safety guidance and company policy. Here are the three biggest new changes to business travel policy that we’ve heard from industry leaders.
1. Establish a Pre-Travel Policy
Your company’s pre-travel policy could require proof of vaccination and a negative viral COVID-19 test result before returning from a business trip; this is most likely when traveling internationally.
Companies also include mask guidance and affidavit requirements to ensure that employees commit to wear masks during transit (i.e., planes, trains, buses, ferries).
The Kogniz AssureAI platform can handle your company’s pre-travel policy with workflows based on vacation plans, vaccination and testing records, and pre-travel notifications.
2. Require Quarantine Upon Return
After employees travel for business, some employers choose to quarantine them for 10-14 days and document any symptoms. Alternatively, the employer might allow an employee to return to the office earlier, if he or she submits two negative tests within a week of travel, for example. Typically, a Human Resources manager would notify each employee and their manager to let them know when the quarantine period has passed. In reality, employers need to address current CDC, OSHA, HIPAA, state and local guidelines when addressing quarantine policies in the workplace.
Unfortunately, most companies aren’t prepared to handle these tasks manually when business travel increases. HR teams are rightfully concerned about keeping track of all employees’ travel plans, travel dates, testing status and when to email them in addition to doing their day-to-day work.
Instead, Kogniz AssureAI offers workflow tools that can be triggered based on events like business or personal travel and can automatically notify employees of their quarantine period, monitor symptoms through self-attestation surveys, remind them to upload their test results, and inform them when they have been cleared to return to the workplace. Kogniz can even link into your access control symptoms to block entry until the employee has been cleared.
3. Address Personal Travel
Can employers require employees to report personal travel? Yes, they can, but it should be done with care and across the board.
- Avoid specific personal questions about personal travel plans
Employers should focus on asking for disclosure of out-of-state or international travel and the beginning and ending dates of travel that affect safety.
- Apply policy for all employees equally
The company must apply the travel policy to all employees equally, including executives, to avoid perceived or actual discrimination from occurring.
Why is this an employer’s business?
Employers are required to create a workplace environment that is free from hazards; global pandemics are considered a workplace hazard; therefore, COVID-19 exposure is a safety threat to fellow employees. When it comes to personal travel, questionnaires should only solicit information that is specific to the risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as travel to a high exposure risk country or area.
Kogniz can quickly set up the platform to offer questionnaires for business and personal travel, reduce the burden on HR teams, and ensure that all employees adhere to the travel policy.
Where to learn more
We’ve found several helpful resources to support building your COVID-19 travel policy, including:
- OSHA’s Business Travelers website page
- Country-specific information on the U.S. Department of State website
- SHRM’s tips on how to handle business travel during the pandemic
We recommend discussing your plans with local health and safety authorities and a lawyer to ensure that your employees and your organization will stay out of harm’s way.
To help you enable your policy, Kogniz offers vaccine and testing management that complies with federal, state, contractor, and private company policies. Kogniz AssureAI also handles the anticipated new Emergency Temporary Standard as per the Biden Administration’s guidance.
How Kogniz solves the headaches of vaccine and weekly testing requirements?
Watch this brief on-demand webinar to see Kogniz AssureAI for vaccine and testing management in action or download the brochure to learn more. If you’re ready to get started soon, see the Special Offer on Vaccine & Test Management .