It can be a challenge to balance business travellers’ use of sharing economy suppliers with a company’s duty of care commitment to keep them safe. Here’s a look at pros and cons business travelers and travel managers should consider.
Pro: Rating systems help identify and remove unsafe properties or owners. There can be no guarantees, of course, but few stories circulate about unsafe experiences for guests. Stories about hosts having their homes burgled or vandalized by guests are much more common. Sharing economy supporters point out that crime is a concern in hotels, as well.
Con: While corporate clients regular ask hotels to provide information about safety, they cannot get the same details from sharing economy suppliers. Properties offered through services like Airbnb and Travelmob are not officially inspected for adherence to fire and other safety regulations. This raises a question about whether a company could be failing duty of care responsibilities if an employee is injured or killed at a sharing economy property allowed under company travel policy.
Pro: Most sharing economy companies conduct background checks on their drivers. Lyft, Sidecar and Uber all screen to ensure clean driving records and exclude drivers with criminal convictions. Lyft won’t reconnect a driver to a passenger who’s given the driver a poor rating in the past. BlaBlaCar offers a “ladies only” option, where both passenger and driver are female. Travellers can share their destination and expected arrival time with friends (or travel managers), who can track their journey in real time. One other risk-reducer: Many sharing economy transportation suppliers now carry US$1 million liability insurance.
Con: Unlike licensed taxi drivers, the new generation of ground transportation providers doesn’t usually require drivers to have professional training or a professional license. True peer-to-peer services, like ride-sharing organization Carpooling.com, rely heavily on passenger ratings to assess their drivers. Drivers with criminal records, including for reckless driving, have passed Uber’s vetting process. And a small number of sharing economy drivers have been accused of assaulting and kidnapping passengers.