What should an employer do if an employee is due to go abroad on a work assignment to an area that becomes affected by political violence or rioting?

An employer has duties under both statute and the common law to ensure the health and safety of its employees. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 contains the criminal law duty and states that every employer is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. Under the common law, an employer owes a duty of care to its employees to ensure that they are protected against reasonably foreseeable risks.

In order to comply with these duties, an employer must give proper consideration to the risks posed by political violence or rioting in a country to which its employee is due to travel. The employer should take reasonable steps to ensure the employee's safety. This will include taking advice from the Foreign Office as well as making any other reasonable enquiries.

The employer may have to postpone the employee's trip until the risk has passed or there may be other measures that the employer can put in place that will allow the employee to carry out the work assignment safely. The employer should keep the employee apprised of the situation and ensure that it takes into account the employee's views before making any decisions.