The landscape when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights is always changing. So, it is imperative that businesses have clear risk management policies and procedures when deploying staff across the globe or when staff are regularly engaging in business travel.
According to Andrew Devereux, global risk intelligence manager at Healix, “LGBTQ+ travellers face a unique set of legal, social and cultural risks when travelling to some locations. Countries and territories worldwide approach legislation related to the LGBTQ+ community differently.
“As a result, a blanket approach to personal travel risk assessments is insufficient to fulfil the duty of care commitment.”
Understanding the risks
Duty of care policies and risk management can only be effective if there is a clear understanding and appreciation of the wide-ranging risks faced by LGBTQ+ employees.
The treatment of same-sex relations varies, posing risks, and even in countries where same-sex relations are not criminalised, there may be a lack of legal framework to safeguard LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination.
Same-sex couples may not receive recognition or access to spousal visas, requiring them to obtain two separate visas if a staff member is traveling with a partner.
Some authorities may only acknowledge the gender registered on the passport for transgender travellers. Certain liquid hormones might pose a risk when traveling, as they may not be permitted, could be unavailable in specific countries, and there might be restrictions on quantities.
Commenting on the risk factors, Andrew Devereux said, “In countries like China, surveillance is not unusual. This can take the form of physical surveillance or could simply be the monitoring of content on social platforms.
“Therefore, extra care should be taken when posting content online or when using dating apps. It’s not unusual for venues and hotels to be raided by local authorities.”
How should businesses prepare LGBTQ staff?
Clearly communicate and provide pre-deployment advice to staff before travel. Issues may already arise during the visa application stage and as a result, individual staff may already be aware of the risks and/or discrimination they may be facing.
Ensure that legal and consular assistance is available to employees, and make sure they know where to access it in case of difficulty.
The organisation should check housing arrangements before deployment. In some countries, rental properties may be unavailable to same-sex couples.
Travelling with medications can result in searches by border agency staff. It is important to ensure that doctor’s prescriptions are clear. Be aware of the allowed quantities for entry into the host country and how employees can access future prescriptions throughout their deployment.
LGBTQ+ staff may be reliant on private medical centres. Ensure your company provides access in case of emergencies and that staff possess all relevant documentation to facilitate the administration of medical treatment.
When issuing pre-deployment guidance, Andrew Devereux advised:” Be prepared. There may be a stark difference to how you are treated in a rural setting compared to city life where communities are more liberal in attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community.
“Establish regular check-ins with your LGBTQ+ employees deployed in high-risk areas and create an open environment where employees can voice their concerns.”
Andrew concludes; “LGBTQ+ staff continue to face unique challenges when travelling and organisations should have appropriate risk mitigation in place. An open environment should be encouraged, where employers and employees can discuss any potential risks or concerns prior to a trip.
“It is also key to maintain that communication once the staff member is travelling and establish regular check-ins with LGBTQ+ employees deployed in high-risk environments. Country-specific guidelines should also be issued, so risk can be minimised where possible.”