US companies of all sizes in recent months have struggled with developing policies that govern employee return to their offices and normal work procedures. Senior executives and boards of directors discussed the requirement for Covid-19 vaccines for all employees, the requirement for regular testing for the unvaccinated, and limiting the presence of the vaccinated in person in the office.
Some US companies, apparently including JP Morgan Chase & Co., they found another option: to allow only vaccinated employees to travel for work. The financial services company, one of the largest spenders in the United States on corporate travel, it also restricted participation in the meetings for the vaccinated, according to Reuters.
JP Morgan is not alone. About 18% of respondents to a July Global Business Travel Association survey of member travel buyers and procurement executives indicated that their companies would need a vaccine before traveling on corporate business, and 40% of such respondents another GBTA survey this month indicated that their companies would restrict business travel “and / or” meet customers face-to-face with the vaccinated.
The decision on how to deal with vaccines, travel and return to work is often discussed and made at the highest levels of an organization, and not always with input from the travel manager. However, any company that implements a business travel ban for the unvaccinated will need procedures and mechanisms to implement and enforce that mandate, and this is where the travel manager comes in.
These things can be done. You just have to join the right group to make sure they are involving that field, and it is up to HR to help the travel group solve this problem. “
Jim Wilkins of Partnership Travel Consulting
Developing and executing a strategy to limit business travel to vaccinated employees could be a complicated undertaking, and several travel executives have suggested staying in close contact with senior management to fully understand the goals of that mandate. Pre-travel authorization technology and travel profile management strategy could also be valuable tools for strengthening a travel mandate.
TMC: Maybe not us
Travel management company partners, however, may not be eager to help design and enforce business travel bans. Several TMCs declined to comment on this report and sources indicated reluctance on the part of TMCs to serve in any kind of enforcement capacity for a vaccine-related travel ban.
“Most TMCs are not touching Covid-related travel policies, or Covid-related travel measures within an organization, with a 10-foot stake, just because they see it as a human resources issue. “said Brandon Strauss, co-founder and partner of the business travel consultancy KesselRun Corporate Travel Solutions.
“It’s not the TMC’s job to oversee policy. This is the travel manager’s job,” said Jim Wilkins, senior vice president of corporate buyer solutions at business travel consulting firm Partnership Travel Consulting and former senior director of global travel at WarnerMedia.
However, there are measures travel managers can take to put in place measures to prevent unvaccinated employees from traveling, of varying degrees of complexity. Among the more blunt methods they could use would be to simply remove profiles of travelers from travel platforms who would not prove their vaccination status, Strauss said.
“If he tries to travel, there is no access and there is no recognition of him when he calls a travel consultant,” Strauss said.
Profile the situation
Travel profiles could be used in other ways to enforce this mandate. Tammy Krings, founder and CEO of travel management company ATG, said the ATG profile management system includes a field for traveler health information that could be used to record vaccination status with supporting information.
“When we created ours, we had many, many cases where people got sick on the road or something happened while they were on the road, and we needed to know more about them,” Krings said. “We are treating Covid in exactly the same way we have treated other diseases, except that in some cases it is mandatory. We are seeing a significant increase in people entering vaccination information on their profile, even if their own company doesn’t require them to be vaccinated. “
They will find that travel will be almost impossible if they are not vaccinated. “
ATG’s Tammy Krings
For those who do, bookings can only go online or through a live agent if that profile field includes vaccination information, he said. “We treat it as if it were a normal policy. So if someone breaks any other policy, that’s the same level of treatment,” he said.
Watkins suggested that HR software could also be adapted to include vaccination information on employee profiles, which could then integrate with travel technology.
“One thing we talked about is some kind of mechanism built into the HR feed that can populate a profile,” Watkins said, noting that at WarnerMedia, “I’ve been working with our programmers constantly to make sure I can identify levels of traveler: from the executives, what were their rights, compared to the base employee. These things can be done. You just have to get with the right group to make sure they are pulling that field out, and goes to HR to help the travel group to solve this problem. “
In addition to profile management, travel managers may rely on pre-travel authorization processes and technologies to help report potential unvaccinated travelers.
“There may be a pre-trip authorization component, but that assumes the company has pre-trip technology, which most don’t,” Strauss said. “Or, they don’t do it in any way of hard-stop automation.”
Krings said an ATG customer requires two levels of managerial approval for an unvaccinated employee to travel for work, with the request for approval automatically routed to one manager, then the second if approved by the first.
“A lot of them are being denied,” Krings said. “Unlike many other approval processes, these are not approved. My guess is that about 60% is approved and 40% is rejected.”
Things change, sometimes quickly
The late summer spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 and the sharp increase in the number of cases have prompted many companies to rapidly and drastically change the return-to-office plans developed weeks earlier. Office meetings have been delayed, travel plans postponed and, in some cases, new rules have been developed for unvaccinated employees. Will these plans change again now that new Covid-19 cases are on the decline, at least in the United States? It is possible that some companies that have adopted travel bans for unvaccinated employees may change their mind. (Southwest Airlines, for example, has retrace your steps on similar floors.)
While these bans are permanent, that doesn’t mean companies won’t find grounds for exceptions, Strauss noted.
“If you have an employee who is marginally important and doesn’t want to be vaccinated and needs to travel, he probably won’t be working there for long,” Strauss said. “But I think the bigger problem is, what do you do in case you have a highly productive employee who needs to travel and the employee says, ‘I’m not getting vaccinated?’ “
Strauss suggested that some companies would bend their rule in that situation. “Basically, if you have an unvaccinated employee who is an important employee and the business unit has a goal, they will say to that employee, ‘go do what you have to do.’ “
On the other hand, Krings suggested that the difficulties of unvaccinated travel could spur corporate interest in ensuring travelers vaccinated.
“They will find that travel will be next to impossible if they are not vaccinated,” Krings said. I’ve been to Romania, the Netherlands and Germany, and every single restaurant asked for my vaccination card, and every single hotel I stayed in asked for my vaccination card. [These companies] they are trying to prepare their people for success as they travel and don’t have to submit [them] at constant PCR tests. “