The subject of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic -- both personal travel and business -- has raised certain questions around rights and responsibilities. It’s a subject that’s especially pertinent for employers who both rely on business travel and are responsible for ensuring safe workplaces and practices for their employees.After more than a year of remote working, companies are once again beginning to travel for business purposes. While this is great news for them, their employees -- some of which traveled frequently for work before the Coronavirus pandemic -- may not feel exactly the same way.Since we are still living in the midst of a pandemic with new strains of COVID-19 being identified, people are understandably nervous about travel of any kind -- especially if they haven't received both vaccinations. When it comes to work-related travel, some may be thinking, “Can I be forced to travel for work?”, or, “Can I refuse to travel for work”?.And, since many organizations have not updated their
business travel policy and proceduresto reflect the pandemic, these are questions with many gray areas.Here, we’ll go through the business travel considerations every organization should look at and answer the important question: Can an employee refuse to travel for work?
- The business travel destination has recently been labeled a “COVID-19” hotspot.
- The employee may have health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus or place them in a high-risk category.
- An employee's family member or a member of their close circle may have a medical condition that makes them especially vulnerable to the virus or place them in a high-risk category.
- The employee may not have received the full dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Keep in mind that the pandemic has not affected everyone equally. For some, extra exposure to hotels, different modes of transportation, and other people can be riskier than for others.
It should also include any employee health exemptions, guidelines on collecting an employee's medical information, and an assessment of existing employment contracts. This should be created with input from your HR departments, with a heavy focus on risk management.
You'll also need to establish a policy that covers employees' conduct during the business trip. This should include guidelines on what to do if they believe they've come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and what constitutes as reasonable accommodation during the trip.
- Selecting another employee to make the business trip.
- Making alternative arrangements for the business trip, such as virtual meetings.
- Delaying the business trip until the outlook is better.
It's also advisable to seek legal advice on this issue, as well as taking into consideration any guidelines from: