Introduction to Duty of Care

We all know that Duty of Care and Wellbeing have been identified as increasingly important issues across our sector; yet as we work out how to address these issues, we know that there is a need for reliable expertise that can be used in professional practice.

With clear linkages throughout the Core Humanitarian Standard, the CHS Alliance is very pleased to host an area on our website on duty of care and wellbeing. The sections below provide resources from across the sector on the latest thinking and good practice in this area. In some cases, the links provided will redirect you to another website where the resources are hosted. It’s not a definitive list, so if you have anything to offer then please get in touch with us.

The webpages have been organised into the following areas:

  • Resources and Tools – practical tools and templates that may assist you as you start to build up your work in this area
  • Partners and Experts – links to organisations and individuals who we know are experts in these areas.
  • Research – insights and research from the experts are included here

We have considered duty of care to be the moral or legal obligation organisations need to undertake to ensure the health, safety or well-being of others. It should be good organisational practice and is applicable not just before, during, but also after the period of employment

Wellbeing creates ‘an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organisation’.

Thank you to Christine Williamson, Duty of Care International, who has compiled and reviewed these resources.

If you have any comments, questions or resources to add, then please get in touch with us at: info@chsalliance.org


Core Humanitarian Standard (2014) – Link

The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) sets out Nine Commitments that organisations and individuals involved in humanitarian response can use to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance they provide. It also facilitates greater accountability to communities and people affected by crisis: knowing what humanitarian organisations have committed to will enable them to hold those organisations to account.

Core Humanitarian Competency Framework (revised version 2017) – Link

Competent and well-managed staff are at the heart of an accountable and effective organisation, therefore they need to be equipped with the right skills and behaviours. The Core Humanitarian Competency Framework explains the link between the organisation’s ability to deliver impact, and what it takes to be successful through personal and organisational excellence.

HR Metrics Dashboard: A Toolkit (2016) – Link

This toolkit has been developed to support human resources (HR) practitioners in planning and developing an HR metrics dashboard. An HR metrics dashboard identifies and presents key human capital trends which can organisation can monitor and use to support programme and operational impact. It maps how to report on trends by developing and presenting them in a dashboard. The toolkit is aimed at supporting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who may have never used this approach before.

Human Resources Information Systems (2015) – Link

Since the HR System PS Enterprise (PSe) was implemented over ten years ago, SCUK has experienced significant growth and has effectively outgrown PSe. This presentation assesses the phased approach to new Information Systems (IS) at Save the Children UK, where the IS strategy supports movement towards best-in-breed, cloud-based systems.

Staff Survey Toolkit (2015) – Link

This staff survey toolkit is designed for organisations and departments undertaking employee surveys. It has been developed by the CHS Alliance and Agenda Consulting – experts in staff and volunteer surveys and benchmarking studies. The toolkit contains guidelines outlining the process to follow step-by-step, whether you decide to run it in-house or out-source it, as well as a template to adapt and use.

HR Manual: A Manual for Managing HR Resources (2015) – Link

This HR manual, revised and updated by the CHS Alliance in partnership with Radhika Bhagat of Manifest UK, has been designed for use by HR teams in the humanitarian and development sector, as well as programme managers involved in setting up new programme offices and managing human resources in the field.

A Handbook for Measuring HR Effectiveness (2015) – Link

This handbook was developed to assess the effectiveness of an organisation’s HR and people management policies and practices. Undertaking an HR audit enables an organisation to identify areas for improvement and priority actions.


Thematic Resources

Security Risk Management: a basic guide for smaller NGOs (2017) – Link

This guide aims to be a simple, easy-to-use security resource to help smaller NGOs demystify security risk management. By setting out the elements of a basic security risk management framework, this guide aims to support NGOs in translating their duty of care obligations into key processes and actions that will not only enhance their national and international staff security but also improve their organisation’s reputation and credibility.

Deber de Cuidado: Marco jurídico y principales herramientas (2017) – Link

This report in Spanish reviews how duty of care should be approached by Spanish entities that have staff working abroad. The document analyses how Spanish national labour laws should be applied, taking into account the sector’s good practices.

Voluntary Guidelines on the Duty of Care to Seconded Civilian Personnel (2017) – Link

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Duty of Care to Seconded Civilian Personnel harmonise an understanding of, approach to and implementation of duty of care. They are designed to serve as a basis for clarification and exchange between seconding and receiving organisations as well as with individual secondees.

Duty of Care: Protection of Humanitarian Aid Workers from Sexual Violence (2017) – Link

This paper functions as a broad foundation for contemplating duty of care, as it relates to sexual violence. I can be used to develop explicit and full examinations of how humanitarian organisations can meet their duty of care to provide workplaces free from sexual violence.

Security to go: a risk management toolkit for humanitarian agencies (2017) – Link

This toolkit for humanitarian aid agencies is intended to provide a simple, easy-to-use guide for non-security experts to quickly set up basic safety, security and risk management systems in new contexts or rapid onset emergency response situations. This guide is applicable to both international organisations and national agencies moving into new regions and/or setting up new programmes; it is especially applicable to environments where the risk levels have changed due to human or natural causes.

Voluntary Guidelines on the Duty of Care to Seconded Civilian Personnel (2017), published jointly by the Swiss, German and UK seconding agencies of their respective Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Link

Seconded personnel voluntarily put themselves in locations that are volatile, hazardous or even intensely hostile, in order to support the determination of their seconding organisation to progress on issues such as stability, security, the rule of law, humanitarian action and conflict resolution. Employers and organisations are therefore morally and legally bound to ensure that their duty of care obligations towards them are fulfilled.

Essential Principles for Staff Care (2017) – Link

Essential Principles of Staff Care: Practices to Strengthen Resilience in International Humanitarian and Development Organizations by the KonTerra Group with InsideNGO and DisasterReady.org aims to outline the principles and practices that, if implemented, will contribute to the resilience and psychological health of humanitarian and development personnel and strengthen an organization’s ability to offer a comprehensive staff care program.

Travelling with a disability Guideline (2017) – Link

This guideline targets travellers with a disability and personal assistants (PA) of travellers with a disability. In addition, this document is useful for anyone who is travelling together with a person with a disability.

Disability-inclusive health, safety & security management (2016) – Link

This briefing paper aims to encourage security managers and policy makers towards implementing disability inclusive safety and security protocols and standards as an integral part of Duty of Care within the humanitarian, development and private sector.

Sexual Violence: Psychological Support Needs and Meeting Those Needs (2015) – Link

InterHealth presentation on general principles, support and practices relating to staffcare and sexual violence.

Mindfulness and Wellbeing: A Shift of Emphasis from Treatment to Prevention (2015) – Link

In recent years, there has been an awareness of mindfulness-based approaches to stress reduction, along with evidence on its benefits towards supporting personal and organisational wellbeing. This paper explores the current state of wellbeing support available to aid workers within the humanitarian sector, as well as the concept of mindfulness, and in particular, mindfulness-based approaches. It champions the need to explore how wellbeing within our organisations could benefit from such approaches.

Debriefing Aid Workers and Missionaries: A Comprehensive Manual (2015) – Link

This manual gives guidelines for those who offer debriefing to people who work overseas (usually in developing countries) as relief workers, development workers, volunteers, missionaries, peacekeepers or in similar positions. Most aid workers who work overseas for at least six months report that they find it helpful to receive a personal debriefing session on their return home. This manual contains extensive details on operational debriefs and exit interviews.

Duty of Care in Action: Managing the Loss of an Employee Overseas (2015) – Link

Employee fatalities can have catastrophic implications for families and organizations. This briefing provides an overview of the complexity of repatriation of mortal remains as well as the process of pre-planning for such difficult events.

The Cost of Security Risk Management for NGOs – EISF (2013) – Link 

This guide explores the costs related to safety and security management for aid programmes. It aims to assist all aid practitioners to determine their risk management expenditure more accurately, and demonstrate an evidence-based approach when presenting this information to donors.

Family First: Liaison and support during a crisis (2013) – Link

The document addresses the stages of planning, delivery and review of Family Support by an NGO during a crisis. It is intended for CMT staff who must support the family liaison process, as well as being an aid to the family liaison staff in their role.

Irish Aid Guidelines for NGO Professional Safety & Security Risk Management (2013) – Link

A conceptual shift in our overall approach to safety and security underlines the approach taken within the these guidelines. Safety and security are not only an ethical and moral concern but are also an explicit legal obligation.

Psychological First Aid: A Guide for Fieldworkers (2011) – Link

Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers covers both social and psychological support and involves the provision of humane, supportive and practical help to people suffering from the impact of serious crisis events.

Approaches to Staff Care in International NGOs (2009) – Link

In early 2009, People In Aid and InterHealth came together to research the provision of psychological and medical care for international staff and frequent travellers. The focus of the report is on psychological care.

Resources from the International SOS Foundation – Link and Link


Psychological health & wellbeing

Noreen Tehrani Associates – Provides trauma services and training for organisations, practitioners and individuals. They offer a range of psychological screening and trauma services to help organisations deal with the impact of trauma on employees and the organisation.

CiC – An ethical company focused on the well-being of both their customers and the people that work for them, from employees, to volunteers, agency workers and even family members. Their aim is to provide best value EAP solutions to help keep your workforce at their best.

Konterra Group – Supports organisations that manage international development, humanitarian and emergency management operations. Specialises in providing support to clients that operate in high-stress environments—both inside and outside the US—where organizations and their staff face difficult challenges.

Legal services

A4AID – As a global charity, A4ID delivers an unparalleled opportunity for law firms and companies internationally to make an outstanding contribution in meeting the needs of the world’s poorest citizens. They do this primarily as facilitators, matching international legal expertise with local need in more than 100 jurisdictions.

Security services

EISF – EISF is an independent network of security focal points who represent European-based humanitarian NGOs operating internationally. EISF is committed to improving the safety and security of operations and staff, strengthening humanitarian security risk management, to allow greater access to, and impact for, crisis-affected populations.

Duty of care & people management services

Duty of Care International – Duty of Care International works with organisations globally to protect and care for employees and volunteers working in all types of environments. From developing Duty of Care minimum standards to embedding new practices, Duty of Care International, led by Christine Williamson, works closely with organisations to help create a better, more responsible place to work. Christine works independently or partners with associates to deliver the Duty of Care services organisations require.

Centre for Safety and Development – The Centre specializes in advising NGOs, research & educational institutes and government agencies, as well as training their employees in dealing with dangerous situations when working and travelling abroad. They can provide support for duty of care.

Insurance & medical services

Cigna NGO Health Benefits – Cigna NGO Health Benefits has almost 60 years of market leadership in providing worldwide medical insurance to workers from international organisations. Their members are based in virtually every country in the world and as a result, we have acquired unmatched experience and knowledge of this industry.

ISOS – International SOS Pte Ltd. provides medical and travel security services. It offers emergency medical assistance services; and medical and security services in the areas of assistance, tracking, training, consulting, staffing, supplies, occupational health, and travel security. The company also operates clinics that offer healthcare services.


Learning resources or practitioners

Disaster Ready platform – DisasterReady.org makes cutting-edge professional development resources available to relief and development workers and volunteers – anywhere, anytime, at no cost. DisasterReady.org’s online learning library of more than 600 training resources is constantly expanding and covers core topics such as Humanitarianism, Program/Operations, Protection, Staff Welfare, Management and Leadership, Staff Safety & Security, and Soft Skills.

Cornerstone – The Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation transforms the way people help people. Through the contribution of our talent management technology, our capacity building programs, and the support of our entire ecosystem, we strengthen nonprofit organizations around the world by helping them develop, engage, and empower their employees and the people they serve.

Humanitarian Leadership Academy – The Humanitarian Leadership Academy is a global learning initiative set up to facilitate partnerships and collaborative opportunities to enable people to prepare for and respond to crises in their own countries. They aim to support the needs of individuals, organisations and communities by facilitating access to learning resources, platforms and tools.

Start Network – Transforming Surge Capacity – The Transforming Surge Capacity Project brings together 11 Start Network agencies with ActionAid leading. The project aims to make surge capacity more effective and efficient across the whole humanitarian sector by promoting collaboration and coordination. It’s about getting everyone to work together to improve and finding new ways to enhance the role of local agencies and external stakeholders.

RedR UK – RedR UK provides training and technical support to NGOs, aid workers and communities responding to natural and man-made disasters all over the world. RedR is also a Membership organisation: they have a global network of 1,800 Members, all of whom are experienced humanitarian professionals.


Kemp, E. & Merkelbach, M. (2016). Duty of Care: A review of the Dennis v Norwegian Refugee Council ruling and its implications. European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) – Link

On 29 June 2012, Steve Dennis, an employee of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), was injured and kidnapped, along with three other colleagues, following an attack during a VIP visit to the IFO II refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Four days later the hostages were set free during an armed rescue operation carried out by Kenyan authorities and local militia. Three years later, Dennis submitted a claim at the Oslo District Court against his former employer, the NRC, for compensation for economic and non-economic loss following the kidnapping. The Court concluded that the NRC acted with gross negligence in relation to this incident and found the NRC to be liable for compensation towards Dennis.

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the court case and what lessons can be drawn from the Court’s ruling for the international aid sector. In order to achieve this, the paper reviews the Court’s legal reasoning and highlights the interrelation between the ruling, the concept of legal duty of care and security risk management. The paper concludes by providing an overview of some of the wider implications this case has for the international aid sector.

Chavanne, M. (2012). Pouvez-vous être poursuivi en justice en Suisse? Security Management Initiative (SMI), Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) – Link

Ce document traite au regard du droit suisse des règles qui incombent aux employeurs en ce qui concerne la protection des employés, ceci en prenant en particulier en compte les entités actives dans des environnements à hauts risques et dangereux (complexes). Il fait partie du suivi de l’étude « Can you get sued? Legal liability of international humanitarian aid agencies towards their staff » éditée par le SMI en 2011.

Le document du SMI de 2011 examinait la situation juridique dans cinq pays – France, Italie, Grande-Bretagne, Etats-Unis et Suède – et concluait que dans chaque pays les organisations d’aide internationale, à côté de leurs soucis moraux et éthiques portant sur le bien-être de leurs équipes d’employés, étaient bien soumises aux standards et règles juridiques relatives au devoir de protection et à la responsabilité découlant des relations employeurs-employés dans leur Etat respectif.

Kemp, E. & Merkelbach, M. (2011). Can you get sued: Legal liability of international humanitarian aid organisations towards their staff. Security Management Initiative (SMI), Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) – Link

This Policy Paper is produced by the Security Management Initiative (SMI) and is the result of an SMI research project. SMI focuses on topics of central interest to the risk and security management community of international aid agencies. SMI offers policy makers and practitioners an overview of key practices and conceptual issues as well as a summary of the recent evolution of a given topic, points to some of the main debates and suggests perspectives for moving forward. It thus aims to clarify and inform the risk and security management of non-profit organisations and contribute to the professionalisation of the sector.

The Importance of HR Management in Supporting Staff Working in Hazardous Environments (2011) – Link

This report summarises the research which was undertaken in order to examine the role of human resource management (HRM) practices and processes in the organisational support of the management of risk to staff deployed to hazardous environments by organisations in the humanitarian aid and security sectors. A further aim of the research was to identify current and emerging key issues with organisational support as well as the barriers to the success of the support for staff deployed in dangerous regions of the world.

The key issues in this report are addressed from an organisational perspective, with a focus on the role of HRM and the crucial part the function should play in the identification, development and implementation of risk management strategies, policies and practices to support organisations from being found negligent in managing staff and exposed to potential litigation.

Resilience – Building Resilient Managers in Humanitarian Organisations (2011) – Link

In the last decade there has been increasing interest in the level of stress, trauma, or violence experienced by humanitarian workers, but relatively little focus on the other side of the coin – qualities that promote resilience and thriving in these challenging environments. People In Aid, through this report, undertakes an initial exploration of the personal skills and strengths, and organizational structures and practices, which can promote resilience in managers working for international humanitarian organizations.

Engaging Tomorrow’s Global Humanitarian Leaders Today (Leadership) (2010) – Link

Today’s international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) widely agree that they must improve the speed, quality and effectiveness of their humanitarian response, but this goal has to be achieved against a backdrop of climate change, global insecurity, scarce resources and increasing scrutiny from a wide range of stakeholders.

Burnout (2008) – Link

This document looks at terms such as burnout, compassion fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are all used to describe situations where individuals, through the experience of a severe single event, or a combination of long-term stressful events experience a noticeable change in their psychological and physical health and well being.

ODonnell, K. (2017) Unbreakable? Recognizing humanitarian stress and trauma – Link

Despite its ubiquitous presence, whether, in crisis zones such as Syria, Yemen or the Congo, or day-to-day existence in both the developing and industrialized worlds, trauma often remains largely unrecognized and untreated. It is the same in the humanitarian sector…

Brons, E. (2017) Duty of Care when travelling overseas, the devil is in the details – Link

de Freytas-Tamura, K. and Sengupta S. (2017) For 2 Experts Killed in Congo, U.N. Provided Little Training and No Protection – Link

Williamson, C. (2017) Duty of care starts with recruitment Devex – Link

The safety and security of humanitarian aid workers is arguably in greater jeopardy today than at any time in the history of the humanitarian endeavour. While our systems and practices have strengthened, the threat to the humanitarian worker has increased, particularly the local humanitarian…

Williamson, C. (2017) Informed consent in employment: An essential element of duty of care SaferEdge – Link

If you’ve been following the latest news on duty of care in recent months, you’ll have noticed a large number of articles and forums discussing how organisations can be sued for neglecting their responsibilities, or duty of care, towards the health and safety of their personnel…

Nobert, M & Williamson, C. (2017) Duty of Care: Protection of Humanitarian Aid Workers from Sexual Violence, Report the Abuse – Link

Duty of care is being increasingly discussed within the humanitarian community, and becoming an important area within risk management practice for organisation’s wishing to better address health, safety, and security issues for their staff. This is a welcomed move, with humanitarian action feeling progressively dangerous, and cases like Steve Dennis v. NRC underscoring the need to do better as a community…

Williamson, C. (2017) People Management. In Security to go: a risk management toolkit for humanitarian aid agencies. European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) – Link

Good people management could be described as getting the best results from an employee in a healthy and safe way. People are our most valuable resource and if we believe happy, secure and motivated employees are more likely to be engaged, committed and productive, it makes good business sense to support employees well and to provide them with a healthy and safe working environment…

Merkelbach, M. (2017). Voluntary Guidelines on the Duty of Care to Seconded Civilian Personnel. Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Stabilisation Unit (SU) and Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) – Link

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Duty of Care to Seconded Civilian Personnel harmonise an understanding of, approach to and implementation of duty of care. They are designed to serve as a basis for clarification and exchange between seconding and receiving organisations as well as with individual secondees…

Breslin, Scott (2017) Staff wellbeing is not enough – Link

Originally, Duty of care referred to an organization’s legal obligation to avoid acts or omissions likely to cause harm to staff or others. However, the discussion has moved on and the term now carries broader meaning. Today, duty of care denotes an organization’s responsibility for staff wellbeing, particularly in regard to physical and mental health at work….

Kemp, E. & Merkelbach, M. (2016). Duty of Care: A review of the Dennis v Norwegian Refugee Council ruling and its implications. European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) – Link

Hoppe, K & Williamson, C. (2016) Dennis v Norwegian Refugee Council: implications for duty of care Humanitarian Practice Network – Link

On 29 June 2012, Steve Dennis, an employee of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), was injured and kidnapped, along with three other colleagues, following an attack during a VIP visit to the IFO II refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Four days later the hostages were set free during an armed rescue operation carried out by Kenyan authorities and local militia. Three years later, Dennis submitted a claim at the Oslo District Court against his former employer, the NRC, for compensation for economic and non-economic loss following the kidnapping. The Court concluded that the NRC acted with gross negligence in relation to this incident and found the NRC to be liable for compensation towards Dennis…

Ryan, S. (2016)The Duty to be Caring – Link

Presentation: Duty of Care: Working overseas in high-risk situations – BWB by Bates Wells Braithwaite (2015) – Link

Presentation: Managing duty of care guidance – BWB by Bates Wells Braithwaite (2015) – Link

Chavanne, M. (2012) Can you get sued in Switzerland? The rights and obligations of Swiss enterprises and organisations vis-à-vis their travelling and expatriate staff – Link

Kemp, E. and Merkelbach, M. (2011). Can you get sued?: Legal liability of international humanitarian aid organisations towards their staff. Security Management Initiative (SMI) – Link

Williamson, C. (2010) People Management & Security Humanitarian Practice Network – Link

The safety and security of humanitarian aid workers is arguably in greater jeopardy today than at any time in the history of the humanitarian endeavour. The environment has changed and it takes more than a set of technical skills and a friendly manner to be a successful humanitarian worker. Staff are no longer immune from acts of violence, if indeed they ever truly were, and acceptance strategies, so often adopted, are not always effective in some contexts…

Williamson, C. Colvin, G. & McDonald, A. (2008). Roots 12: Human Resource Management Guide (English), (French), (Spanish). Tearfund – Link

This book provides tools that development organisations can use to develop good human resource management. Many of the tools can be used to make improvements at low cost, with enormous benefits. Some of the tools help organisations to employ the right people, while others enable organisations to develop good systems. The combination of good people and good systems leads to an effective organisation – one that achieves its mission and purpose. Throughout the book are reflection questions which can be used by individuals or groups of staff to consider what action they might take.

de Guttry, A. Duty of Care of the EU and Its Member States towards Their Personnel Deployed in International Missions. Whitepaper – Link

In this article, the author examines the current interpretation of the “duty of care” and the obligation to protect life in the international legal system. He defines the precise obligations of the EU and its Member States at this regard, points out what has been done so far to implement them, and highlights the potential consequences of violating these obligations…


CIPD: ‘What’s happening with well-being at work’