Watson Wyatt: Employers Keeping Workers In High-Risk Areas

July 29, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Seven out of 10 multinational companies surveyed have employees in "high risk" areas, yet 40% have not adopted a formal evacuation or removal policy in the event of security threats or health-related issues.

The lack of formal evacuation policies is surprising, considering that 43% of those canvassed report they have had to evacuate employees during the past two years. Perhaps the laissez-faire attitude toward evacuation plans is due to the number that either provide (39%), or plan to provide (25%), financial incentives to employees in high-risk areas, according to a new survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

Despite the risks, and the apparent lack of emergency management preparedness, the majority (82%) of the 37 multinational companies polled via the Internet have no intention of reducing the number of expatriate employees working in affected areas. The change appears to come in a tilt toward more business travel for dangerous areas as opposed to permanent residency.

Areas of Concern

Topping the charts of areas perceived to have the greatest risk was Asia, with 81% responding to risk concerns in that area. This was followed by:

  • Middle East – 50%
  • South/Central America – 46%
  • Africa – 31%
  • Eastern Europe/Former USSR – 15%
  • North America – 12%
  • Western Europe – 8%

Additionally, employers provided a window into what concerns would propel companies to adopt a formal evacuation policy, listing war (50%) and terrorism (50%) as their top two concerns. This was followed by political/social unrest (38%), crime (25%) and SARS (19%). An additionally 19% responded to other concerns.

“The threats of war, terrorism, political and social unrest, and evendisease outbreaks have forced multinationals to take a series of measures toprotect their employees assigned to high-risk areas,” said RobertWesselkamper, practice director of international consulting at Watson Wyatt, in a statement“While companies recognize the potential dangers their workers face, theyrealize they can only do so much to minimize the risks to their employees.Therefore, more employers are offering increased rewards to employees whowork in high-risk locations.”

Copies of the survey, Managing Risks Faced by Expatriate Employees areavailable at www.watsonwyatt.com/managingrisks .