For a lot of people, irrespective of age, company trips and corporate events are something they look forward to. It’s a chance to let their hair down and mingle in a non-serious (non-networking) manner. And with the success of such events, comes its expansion into trips and tours. Companies from all over the world take their employees not just for nice dinners, but to experience other countries.
In fact, research shows that despite the pandemic, travel budgets are increasing again. According to a report by the Business Travel Association, a majority of UK companies are bouncing back larger budgets and reinstating the importance of corporate travel. And while there is still a large population that prefers to work remotely, in a report by CBI Economics, 80% of companies prefer face-to-face meetings and don’t mind travelling for it.
Whether it be for work or fun, travelling is an important part of corporate life. But this brings an important question – can “fun” company trips backfire and put employers at risk?
Company Trips – What Could Go Wrong?
For the most part, company trips and retreats are straightforward. Since it is still a company event, the majority of employees will be on their best behaviour. However, there is still a small chance of things going wrong and here is some of what employers could expect:
- Health and safety issues: As an employer, it will be crucial to ensure that all employees are safe and not doing anything that can cause physical harm. Additionally, the employer may be responsible for seeking any assistance needed. Hence, if an employee gets sick or injured on a company trip and cannot get help, the liability may fall on the employer.
- Harassment/discrimination among employees: It is not always possible to keep an eye on every employee or have knowledge of what goes on with each person in the office. If the workplace already has “groups” or if certain people feel isolated in the office, chances are these issues may increase on a company trip. It is also possible that cases of harassment or discrimination may be brought forward. And even though it will not be the employer’s fault directly, they are bound to get dragged into it.
- Breach in Contract/Policies: Company retreats are often about relaxation, being away from work and having some downtime. However, if an employer pushes employees to work while on the retreat, the employer may need to compensate them with extra breaks or bonus pay. Plus, keeping in mind employment-related legislation, being unable to compensate with time off or extra wages may lead to a legal battle.
Avoiding Possible Legal Implications
- Defining Everything
The first and most important aspect of planning a trip is defining what the trip entails. Whether it is a reward for hard work or a work-related trip, letting employees know what they are being asked to sign up for is crucial. This will allow employees to decide from the first instance whether they wish to participate, lowering the chances of any dispute later. It will also help to clarify whether this retreat will take away from their holiday entitlement.
- Sorting Out Expenses
Another thing that may need to be clearly stated is if their personal expenses will be reimbursed by the company, and if they are, then how much. It would be helpful to have a cap on the amount for daily expenses if employers are trying to ensure no one goes overboard. Alternatively, it may help to clearly dictate what can and cannot be expensed. For example, company dinners or even travel within the city can be expensed, while personal expenses such as shopping or activities cannot.
- Policies and Rules
It is crucial to make sure all employees are made aware of company policies relating to drugs and alcohol. It may not be possible to keep an eye out to make sure everyone is behaving, but if employees are made aware right from the start, the liability (if anything goes wrong) is less likely to fall on the employer.
- Avoiding Large Groups
As tempting as it may be for an employer to treat everyone to a trip abroad, not everyone may be able to (or be willing to) go. Moreover, if all employees decide to travel, it may become slightly difficult to manage everyone. Being solely responsible for a large group of employees is not wise, which is why dividing employees into smaller groups will make the trip manageable. Plus, it will be easier to plan for visas, itineraries, expenses, accommodation, and such.
This can be a double-edged sword as there might be employees who don’t feel included. Hence, it will be important to ensure all employees, albeit in smaller groups, are offered a chance to travel. And should it be impossible to do so, other benefits must be offered to employees who cannot travel to avoid any feelings of non-inclusivity.