Beware of foreigners bearing gifts!
As many of my colleagues and contacts in the building and construction industry get ready to head out to Cannes for five days of networking and business development at MIPIM, it’s easy to be jealous. I know how hard those days can be, and how much time and energy can go into making the most of the opportunity. You only have to look out of the window at a cold February in London to know how difficult a week in France at the company’s expense will be – I mean, those cocktails really won’t drink themselves.
But to those of you who are genuinely excited about the idea of foreign business travel it isn’t as glamorous as it might sound or nearly as exciting as I make it look.
For a start, you spend most of the time living out of a suitcase. No matter how fabulous you are, it is hard to maintain the look when you and your clothes are creased, assuming you can even find them!
Then, of course, there are the hours that you end up keeping. You’ve got to make every second count, so by the end of the third day you may well have given up on sleep. Even if you haven’t, the snoring of your room mate may make it impossible anyway.
But finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is all the preparation you have to do. The business cards, the diary planning and the legal preparation (bet you were all wondering how I was going to get a legal point into this one!)
The thing is, we all know and understand about cultural differences, and what might be acceptable in one company may not be advisable in another, but how familiar are we with the laws of the land, and the implications of breaching those laws. Your employer may send you abroad to do something that is completely legitimate here, but could land you in very hot water there, and I don’t just mean a dip in the sea.
And if you were to find yourselves on the wrong end of a truncheon or police cell in another country, whose responsibility is it to fix it. Well in a recent case, whilst the employer in question met all the employees legal fees, they were not liable to him for the damage to his career and reputation when he was ultimately found guilty. All he had done was follow his employer’s instructions, and their internal investigation had found no evidence of any wrongdoing on the employees part, but the country in which he was working disagreed, and there were repercussions. The employee sued the employer for effectively not taking good enough care of him, including keeping an eye on the effect of changes in the law whilst he was out there and changes in political power that led to his downfall. The court disagreed – the changes and consequences of those changes were not reasonably foreseeable by the employer, and so they were not held liable.
So if you are travelling on business, whether a few days in France or a few months in Milan, it’s not just the weather reports you need to be keeping an eye on, or you can have someone like me keeping their eyes open for you!
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Who knew that networking could be dangerous!!!