The world’s airlines are feverishly working on contingency plans for travelers due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. In total, more than 60,000 flights have been cancelled as a result of the ash cloud. Meteorologists around the world cannot predict how long this eruption may last and now it seems that travelers on the Canadian East Coast may be affected as the cloud spreads.
In light of this event, companies should consider creating a contingency plan for employees who may be stranded because of a natural disaster or unforeseen events. Whether you have employees who travel regularly or who work in remote locations, having an appropriate contingency plan can mitigate stress for the employee and manage costs for the company
When developing a plan for such an event there are many issues to consider:
- Sourcing Alternative Travel Plans. Do you have a skilled travel agent who is able to source alternative travel for your employee? Many organizations will book travel through websites such as Expedia or Travelocity, but when alternative options are scarce due to sudden increased demand, will you be able to get what you need? With their extensive contacts, a skilled travel agent may give your employee a professional advantage.
- Designated Contact for Stranded Employees. To mitigate stress, the company should designate a contact within the company for stranded employees. The contact should be ready and able to assist the employee 24/7 and have an understanding of the resources available. For example, for international travel, the company contact should be able to provide information pertaining to Canadian Consulates in the area or other emergency services.
- Expense Policy. There are many questions that a company must ask themselves if they expand their expense policy to include provisions for an emergency. If regular accommodation is not available, can the employee book a hotel for $500 a night or should the employee travel to another town to seek more reasonable rates? Should employees be able to expense laundry services or purchase clothes if stranded? If the employee does not have a corporate credit card, how will you get them more money if necessary? If there are unforeseen costs at home such as childcare or pet sitting, is the company willing to assist?
- Ability to work remotely. In addition to the costs associated with stranded employees, the opportunity cost of lost production must also be considered. Employers may want to invest in a Management Information System that is accessible remotely to negate such losses. Companies should also consider purchasing a long distance cell phone package for international travelers.
- Travel Insurance. If you do not have global medical insurance or a global medical assistance program, such as those offered through PEO Canada, will an injured employee be able to find or pay for medical attention while abroad? If not covered appropriately by outside coverage, an employee’s Workers’ Compensation claim may produce shocking results to your premiums for years to come.
There is no way to prepare for every potential disruption in an employees travel; however, appropriate contingency planning for such an event can mitigate the company costs and employee stress. If you are looking to get started on such a plan here is a link to a useful website with free resources: