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When employees fall ill on the road

Corporate travel agents and CTMs need to know their responsibilities, as well as their company’s policies

By Lisa van de Geyn

Nothing quickens the pulse of a CTM more than a call that a traveller has taken sick or has been hospitalized. When one of Toronto-based Vision Travel’s clients fell ill during a trip to India last year, the team’s corporate travel advisors sprung to action. “We coordinated everything with the hotel, ensured she was checked on regularly and arranged for a doctor to get to her,” says Stephen Smith, a vice-president at Vision Travel, a company that specializes in corporate travel. “The most important factor was the well-being of the traveller and our team monitored her status 24 hours a day.” And when the client couldn’t make her return trip home, her advisor rebooked her flight and arranged for a wheelchair to meet her at the airport when she was healthy enough to get on the plane.

While there are almost always procedures in place for dealing with accidents and illnesses for business travellers (these differ by organization and their preferred group insurance plans), it doesn’t hurt corporate travel agents and CTMs to take a refresher course in their responsibilities, as well and their company’s policies. Familiarizing yourself—and your travellers—with their travel insurance plan is key.

Laura Whiteman, an agent and corporate travel expert at HB Travel in Vancouver, says that even though it’s rare for an employee to fall ill on the road, it’s imperative for CTMs or agents to explain their company’s policy— including medication and hospital stay protocol—and ensure the traveller knows who to contact if they get sick. This includes reminding them to keep their insurance card and the CTM’s contact information handy.

If your agency doesn’t provide in-house after-hours emergency services, make sure travellers use a third-party provider that follows your company’s travel policies. Be sure you’re well-versed on locations that require advance payment for hospital admission, returning a rental car if the traveller isn’t able to, reimbursements for air travel and other prepaid transportation, the expenses incurred by companions travelling with the employee, and medical evacuation if there’s an emergency and the traveller is cleared to be taken to the nearest hospital or to a hospital back in Canada.

And in cases where an employee is away for a long-term project, CTMs should have local contacts on-call who can give instructions and assistance to ill travellers. “Most companies already have a safety and security plan in place for any travellers who are away for long periods,” says Smith. “If they don’t, corporate travel agents have regional partners who will reach out and get them information they need to seek help locally.”

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