Employing staff overseas
There are groups within the College that conduct extended activities overseas often in countries where the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise UK nationals against travel. It is not uncommon for the research group to employ or contract local people to conduct this work and this does not absolve the College of its moral and legal duty of care.
The extent of the duty will depend upon the contract that is drawn up between the employer and the employee. You must seek advice from Human Resources before entering into any agreements. Please refer to the guidance on the HR web pages on Working overseas – Guidance for managers.
Case Study- Kidnapping in Yemen
A research team at the College provided technical assistance to a parasitic disease eradication program in Yemen. They employed a female Yemeni national (DA) on the College staff contract to train and supervise local university teams to conduct national mapping surveys across the country.
The (FCO) advised against all travel to Yemen and strongly urged British nationals to leave. There was a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen and a very high threat of kidnap from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists.
- On the day of the incident two field teams of Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population employees were travelling in 2 separate 4x4s with equipment on their way to the governorates of Ma’rib and Al-Mahrah. Before they got there both teams were kidnapped by armed tribes.
- DA was not with the teams at the time. However, she was planning to undertake fieldwork / supervision at some stage in the upcoming two months.
- The Ministry of Public Health and Population (Yemen) were notified, as was the Governor of Ma’rib.
- After negotiations by the Ma’rib governor the teams were released unharmed on the Ma’rib road approximately 12 hours after the initial abduction.
- The two 4x4 vehicles, four microscopes, lab consumables, laptops and personal belongings were retained by the kidnappers but were eventually returned after further negotiations.
- Once the teams were released they were taken to the nearest major town (Ma’rib) for rest.
- The persons that were kidnapped had no direct employment or consultancy contract with Imperial and were not the direct responsibility of ICL.
- No risk assessments relating to DA’s activities were made available to the Safety Dept investigation.
- There were no emergency plans covering actions to be taken in the event of kidnap or a missing person.
- DA was only partially covered by College Travel Insurance. As an ICL employee but a non-British national living in Yemen she does not receive medical expenses.
- Neither the Dept Administrator nor the HOD were directly informed of the incident by the Dept.
- Due to ongoing unrest in Yemen DA has had to be evacuated partially at College expense until it is safe to return.
College risk assessment and offsite work procedures must be applied to overseas work conducted by all ICL employees this includes non UK nationals not normally resident in the UK.
Those in charge of offsite work must consult HR before employing oversees staff to ensure that the terms and conditions of employment are appropriate.