K&R risk rises amid advice to companies to protect staff

Businesses have been told they need to take more steps to protect staff that travel around the globe from emerging threats.

As business travel returns post COVID, Towergate Health & Protection Poverty has that warned rising poverty and under-resourced law enforcement will create an expected spike in kidnap and ransom cases worldwide.

As such, it has said the greater awareness has to be factored into plans by companies in order to mitigate risks and ensure support is in place if the worst does occur.

The company explained there is the risk of exposure to kidnap and ransom in every country, including the UK, but for employees working abroad, it becomes a greater risk. While there is no set age or gender that is more at risk, there are areas of the world where the probability of kidnap and ransom is much higher, including Africa, Asia and South America.

It added that kidnap and ransom is not necessarily only about the worst-case scenario of being taken hostage. It could also include the threat of extortion, being forcibly taken to a cash machine to withdraw money, or virtual kidnap, where perpetrators falsely claim they have taken an international traveller hostage to coerce others into paying a ransom.

Sarah Dennis, head of international, Towergate Health & Protection, explained: “There are many forms of kidnap and ransom, and it probably happens more often than many employers would think. Companies with overseas employees must make sure their staff are supported.”

As such, prior knowledge and planning are both vital in mitigating the risk of kidnap and ransom, she added.

Political detention is not uncommon, so kidnap and ransom support can provide legal back-up too. The situation of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained for six years in Iran on charges of spying, has highlighted this issue.

“Many employers may not realise that it is possible to provide kidnap and ransom support for their employees via specialists in the field,” said Dennis. “This can be for employees with overseas placements, those who travel regularly for work, or a one-off trip. The same level of assistance should also be provided to family and friends with them. Kidnap and ransom support can also be relevant to those based in the UK, so it is important that employers look at wider support for the entire workforce.”

If the worst does happen and an employee is kidnapped, response consultants – specialist security people – are experts in negotiations; they can be deployed immediately and offer unlimited support. This could be for someone taken by criminals from the street, their office, or hotel, but also for those held abroad by police or other officials. Support is also available to assist employees who are victims of virtual kidnap or extortion.

Then there is the matter of the ransom. Employers need to consider whether they would be able to reimburse any monies paid. This could be anything from a few thousand to many millions of pounds. Loss of funds may also be an issue as it is not uncommon for ransom money to be taken whilst being delivered to kidnappers. It’s important that employers consider having protection in place that can cover them for any losses.

Liam Nalborczyk, account executive, Towergate, added: “The best course of action for employers is to seek expert advice. Knowing the risks helps with mitigating them. Putting support in place can be simple and could prove invaluable.”

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