In the “sharing economy,” people contract with facilitators like Lyft and Airbnb to provide services like rides and lodgings. In many cases, the sharing economy can be less costly than, say, taxis and hotels.
Employers are strongly encouraged to draft and disseminate a policy that addresses these alternative travel arrangements and options, which can save time and money, and offer a perceived upgrade without the extra cost.
But employers should also be aware of how these services are different from their traditional counterparts. The primary difference, of course, is that they aren’t regulated in the same way.
Security is also an issue. Consider Airbnb, which facilitates lodgings in residential properties around the world. These are private homes, not hotels, so security may not be as comprehensive as a traveler would find in a hotel. Hotels offer chain locks on doors, many provide safes and security guards, and nearly all hotels offer surveillance systems. And there’s always someone on hand in the event of an emergency.
At an Airbnb rental, conversely, there is generally no security. Employees might be sharing the property with others, which increases the risk of harassment or crime. If the rental isn’t shared, there will be no one on hand to respond if the employee becomes sick or injured. And, although the owners of Airbnb properties are supposed to obtain the proper insurance, many may not.
Another issue is that private homes rented through Airbnb may not be accessible to people with disabilities–and it may not be apparent until the employee arrives.
Finally, employers should check their general liability policies to make certain they are covered for Airbnb travel. Should an employee damage the property, harass another guest, or behave in some other unprofessional way, an employer should know, prior to the travel, whether there is coverage under an insurance policy.
Create a clear policy about appropriate travel arrangements
Employee safety, disability accommodations, and liability issues all need to be considered when allowing Airbnb rentals. Make sure your employees know to choose their locations carefully and with an eye toward overall safety.
To limit risk, employers may want to specify that employees may only choose properties where they will be the only occupant or where there is a lockable room.
Policies should also include guidelines for resolving unexpected issues. For example, if an employee arrives at an Airbnb rental and does not feel safe, what should they do?
Reinforce that employees must treat the property with respect and behave professionally when on business travel. Include direction on how to respond if they damage the property or become involved in a dispute.
We can help employers draft travel policies that meets the needs and goals of your organization, while minimizing liability and other legal risks.