Canadian HR Reporter

July 13, 2015

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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Page 16 of 19

CANADIAN HR REPORTER July 13, 2015 FEATURES 17 and trust she needs to survive. • Poorly drafted mandate: If an ombudsman's mandate disem- powers her in the receipt, inves- tigation and resolution of a com- plaint, her role will be severely diminished. Moreover, if his mandate is to serve as a sounding board for employees and keep their complaints confidential, there may be issues that are not brought to an organization's at- tention that will pose future legal risk if the organization has a legal obligation to act. • Lack of training or experience: An ombudsman's ability to "in- take" complainants, distill the conflict and find an appropriate and feasible response is essen- tial. It is also necessary for her to know and understand the inner workings and restrictions of the organization. Any deficiency in this regard can be costly as the ombudsman may overlook criti- cal aspects of complaints, fail to address conflicts in an effective manner or over-promise on a particular result. • Inconvenience: An ombuds- man who is not a visible part of an organization risks being ig- nored by complainants as they do not know how she can assist or how to connect with her. • Ignoring reports and recom- mendations: An integral part of an ombudsman's role may be to identify conflicts and trends. ese can be encapsulated in re- ports and recommendations. If an organization is not prepared to act on the reports and recom- mendations, it will not only risk undermining the ombudsman's power to hold the organization accountable, but may inadver- tently invite legal action ques- tioning whether the employer is committed to a healthy work- place for employees. Key principles To take advantage of the benefits of an ombudsman, employers should carefully consider how to implement this role by ensuring, at a minimum, the following prin- ciples are present in the ombuds- man's mandate and processes: • Autonomy and accountability: An ombudsman should be pro- vided with the organizational distance to be able to remain impartial. In this regard, it is im- portant to ensure the reporting structure does not undermine the credibility of the ombudsman or that funding and other re- sources are adequately provided to avoid the need for discretion and permission. Otherwise, the ombudsman's ability to question or hold accountable employees or management is diminished. • Fairness: An ombudsman's role and processes should adhere to the principles of fairness. is can mean providing a meaning- ful opportunity for the complain- ant and respondent to engage in the investigation or conflict reso- lution process. • Efficiency and access: An om- budsman ought to respond to complaints and conflicts in a timely manner. Otherwise, par- ties to a conflict may not resort to the ombudsman or remain confi- dent in its process. e ombuds- man should be provided with the tools, equipment and data to accomplish his mandate, which may mean having adequate staff or access to information. Implementing an ombudsman can be beneficial addition to the workplace. It can be a safe place for employees to address work- place disputes and complaints and will ideally lead an organization to better understand its workplace. However, if the ombudsman role lacks organizational support, clearly defined and applied prac- tices, and access to resources, it may soon prove itself a more cost- ly institution for an organization. Parisa Nikfarjam is an employment lawyer and workplace investigator at Rubin Thomlinson in Toronto. She can be reached at pnikfarjam@ or on Twitter @ pnikfarjam. Role must be well-considered OMBUDSMAN < pg. 14 GLOBAL HR Being aware, being prepared How employers can be better equipped for potential employee abductions By Christopher Arehart and Mike Ackerman D on't play a round of golf at the same course every Saturday at noon. Defi- nitely don't take the same route to the office every day. And if you hold a high-profile position at a company in a high-risk area, always move with bodyguards — whether you're running the firm's foreign subsidiary or just in town for the day. ese kinds of tips could help em- ployees avoid the risk of kidnap- ping in an increasingly global and volatile world beset by common criminals, organized gangs and even terrorists. Large multinationals with sub- stantial overseas operations, such as those in oil and gas, mining and media, usually have experience handling risks such as kidnapping and extortion, and have strategies in place to mitigate them. How- ever, companies heading abroad for the first time, whether to set up a subsidiary or to find suppli- ers, may not be fully prepared. All too often, companies don't even realize the lapses in security that could place employees at risk of a kidnapping or leave them open to extortion. But simple steps can help companies protect both the bottom line and workers. Building awareness Companies need to educate em- ployees about all types of threats. In some cases, these may be en- tirely fabricated. For instance, "virtual kidnappings" are a serious threat in Mexico and Argentina. In this scheme, kidnappers em- ploy a variety of scams to convince the victim he is under duress. e kidnapper then directs the victim to turn off his cellphone and head to a hotel. e kidnapper then calls the victim's relative or spon- sor to demand a ransom. Since all communication with the victim has been cut off, the relative or sponsor well may pay the ransom. Employees who have been trained for this type of sce- nario will know what to do — ig- nore the kidnapper's instructions and simply hang up the phone. Other threats can be much more serious. Host-country na- tionals working for foreign com- panies are at risk of kidnapping or extortion as much as — if not more than — their foreign coun- terparts, and need to be part of company training programs. With a spacious home, late-model au- tomobile and substantial income, the Mexican executive of a U.S. manufacturer operating in Mexi- co, for example, is as much a target as the company president visiting from the Chicago headquarters. Companies and employees should also be wary of social media sites, whether corporate or personal, and err on the side of caution when posting infor- mation and photographs. ey should never disclose travel plans online. Planning ahead Establishing a crisis management strategy — which includes the de- velopment of a plan, creation of an in-house crisis management team and selection of an external response firm — is an essential step in preparing to face kidnap and extortion risks. e crisis management team's core group should include, at a minimum, the CEO or her des- ignated decision-maker; a co-or- dinator (frequently the corporate security director or risk manager); and the general counsel. Other members should include the fi- nance officer, to arrange for ran- som; an HR specialist to oversee care for the hostage's family; and a public relations specialist to han- dle press queries. e external re- sponse firm is on call to undertake negotiations with the criminals. Even with the finest training, strongest security teams and most precise precautions, employees will be kidnapped and extortion- ists will demand seven-figure ran- soms. Any company, of any size, whether it conducts business internationally or domestically, may be targeted for kidnapping or extortion. at's where a crisis management team and kidnap, ransom and extortion insurance can make the difference, and help prevent injury or worse to the employee. Look for a policy that encom- passes all concerned: full- and part-time employees and their immediate relatives; and volun- teers or independent contractors. The policy should also provide 24-hour coverage, whether the in- sured person is at work, at home or travelling for business or leisure. An important part of the pol- icy is access to a responder or response firm that has the expert knowledge needed to negotiate and help bring people home alive. Consider policies that cover the costs of any qualified risk response firm — giving the company flexi- bility — as well as the one retained by the insurance company. Typically, the corporation works directly with the responder. e insurance carrier should not become involved until reimburse- ment is sought by the company. e kidnap, ransom and extor- tion policy should reimburse the company for the substantial costs incurred in bringing an employee back alive and meeting the ex- tortionists' demands. is would include expenses such as the paid ransom; the cost of external public relations and legal consultants; in- terest incurred on a loan secured to meet the ransom demand; retrain- ing costs; and medical fees and psychological counselling for the kidnapped person and her family. Some policies may even provide for a period of rest and rehabilita- tion for a family after a kidnapping incident to help them recover. e policy may also cover legal liability if the company is sued as a result of a kidnapping. Finally, consider adding busi- ness interruption protection. Often overlooked in a kidnap, ransom and extortion policy, this coverage could help offset revenue losses if a manufacturing plant, for example, is shut down by a cartel group demanding a payment. While companies do need to be wary of terrorism-prone coun- tries that grab media attention, lo- cales closer to home are rife with risk as well. It comes down to a balance of risk and reward when people go abroad. Always consult with legal counsel, an insurance consultant or other expert to best determine what is needed to do to help protect employees. Employers should pursue new business opportunities, expand their global footprint and sell their product to the world. But they shouldn't be blindsided — be aware, be prepared. Christopher Arehart is a vice-presi- dent and global product manager of crime, kidnap and ransom, workplace violence expense and mail insurance at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. E.C. "Mike" Ackerman is CEO of the Ackerman Group. Credit: Jonathan Cuevas (Reuters) Relatives and friends mourn at the funeral of Juan Carlos Celso and Mauro Galicia Pena, employees of Goldcorp, in Iguala, Mexico, in March. The two employees, plus one other, were found dead, family members said, after they were believed to have been abducted.

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