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What's Your Company's Policy On Using Airbnb For Business Travel?

Thatcher logo.jpgWith "sharing economy" alternatives becoming more widely available, you need a clear policy on whether your employees are allowed to stay at private residences advertised on Airbnb or similar platforms.

Airbnb was founded in 2008 to hook travelers up with people with available lodging space, which can range from a spare room to an entire residence. It has recently created a class of "business-ready" listings and added an employer dashboard to its website, which allows the use of corporate accounts for booking and payments.

Airbnb may offer substantially less expensive lodgings than traditional hotels. Should your employees be taking advantage of the potential savings? Before you endorse the idea, be aware that there can be some hidden risks.

Safety, liability and legality

Because Airbnb listings are not commercial properties, they are not regulated in the same way. As a result, the lodgings won't have the same security precautions in place -- including chain locks, security guards and staff who can respond to emergencies. Being alone on a property could be problematic, while sharing a property could expose your employee to potentially dangerous people.

Airbnb listings also may not be accessible to workers with disabilities and this might not be immediately obvious.

In the event of an employee injury, claiming compensation could be problematic. Some owners don't update their insurance to reflect that the property is being used for commercial purposes. That could mean any liability claims would be denied and would have to be pursued against the owner.

There is also the possibility that your employee could damage the property or engage in improper or unlawful behavior. You need to be prepared -- and insured -- to resolve the issue.

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that Airbnb is not legal in every jurisdiction and its use could violate some collective bargaining agreements.

Set a thorough travel policy

It's time to reassess your travel policies to take the "sharing economy" into account. Here are some suggestions:

  • Your policy should spell out whether alternative arrangements like Airbnb and ride-sharing are allowed. Be sure to check your insurance to make certain you are covered when employees stay at alternative accommodations. Be sure you're covered for both employee injures and employee-caused damage.
  • To protect employee safety, you may wish to restrict employee accommodations to those where they are the only renter and which are located in safer areas.
  • Be sure you don't require using Airbnb, as some properties may not be disability-friendly.
  • Your employees should have a backup plan or someone to call if there is a problem when they arrive.
  • Your policy should spell out that they must act lawfully and professionally and treat the property with respect.

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