Importance and legal obligations of Duty of Care  

Article by Chandreyee Mukherjee – Safeture (partner)

The Duty of Care compliance differs from country to country; and it is the organisation’s responsibility to care for their people’s safety, irrespective of where they perform their tasks. 

Duty of Care in short 
Duty of Care can still be an unfamiliar phrase, especially when it comes to employee safety, health, and mental well-being. On top of that, there still exists mixed perceptions regarding Duty of Care. But practically, it is an organisation’s legal and ethical obligation toward people that somehow depend on them, for example, their employees.

According to Collins English Dictionary Duty of Care is described as “the legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are in your care, using your service, or exposed to your activities.“

Protecting the organisation’s people also protects the organisation
In other words, organisations are obligated by law to take care of their employees’ well-being and provide them with adequate protection wherever they are while they are working. It is also the actions the organisations take to protect their employees and organisations themselves from unnecessary safety and legal risks.

With the continuous change in the labour market and the work-life standard, there is a rising number of employees travelling for international business assignments. These are more exposed to various kinds of risks and hazards either while travelling or at their workplace, which does not have to be an organisation’s office.

Duty of Care differs from country to country
The legislation handling Duty of Care looks different in different countries. For example, you have the ’English tort law’; which “concerns the compensation for harm to people’s rights to health and safety, a clean environment, property, their economic interests, or their reputations.” Sweden has ‘Arbetsmiljölagen’ (The Work Environment Act), and in Germany, it is ’Bemühenspflicht’ and in France it is termed as ’Devoir de vigilance’, to name some European countries’ laws handling the legislation of Duty of Care.

With laws differing among countries, organisations need to be aware of their Duty of Care obligations to help and be prepared to rescue their employees and provide the best solution wherever they need it. For that, the organisations need to know how Duty of Care works and what the legal and ethical obligations imply. 

Duty of Care ethical aspects
Even though this article focuses on the legal obligation and its consequence in the Duty of Care, there are ethical demands involving the employees’ mental comfort, faith-building, and freedom of doing the work. The ethical aspect of Duty of Care can be positive for staff retention and overall productivity.

The organisation is responsible for its people irrespective of where they work
Whereas legal obligation is the organisation’s legal responsibility to protect their employees during any business activities. If we look globally, there are cases showing companies failing in their legal duties. As a result, they faced legal penalties or had multiple legal cases on them. One of the problems leading to organisations failing in their Duty of Care obligations is the lingering perception in many countries that legal demands of a safe workplace are when the employee works inside an organisation’s buildings (at the office). However, an organisation is legally responsible for the employees’ safety wherever they perform their tasks.

Duty of Care legal compliance is usually outsourced
Thus, to become legally compliant as an organisation, there are several different approaches with medical assistance companies, risk intelligence companies, travel insurance companies, and software providers interconnecting the above-mentioned providers.

In today’s business world, it is quite common for an employee to travel to distinct parts of the world facing various unfamiliar situations. Many employees travel intercontinentally, with new legislation, a different level of infrastructure, etc., and potentially new risks to the employee. This means every organisation needs to be aware of the global view of Duty of Care.

Hence, it is for you, who are responsible for your employees’ safety, to look up your Duty of Care obligations and to avoid the safety risks of the employees, irrespective of their workplace. What does your country’s Duty of Care legislation look like, and does your organisation comply with it?

Do you want help in finding a compliant Duty of Care solution? We are currently offering a free demo and 30 day free trial for the SPHERE platform and app.  Get in touch! 

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