Hostage US Article: Hostage US Education Program: Supporting Your Employees & Their Families

Hostage US Education Program: Supporting Your Employees & Their Families

By Liz Cathcart. May 2024

Organizations sending employees abroad bear a responsibility to assist the families of their staff if a worker is captured while on international assignment. Additionally, they have a responsibility to assist in the employee’s reintegration once they have been released. Your organization might be in this category, and you might be wondering where to start as you consider what support and services to provide to employees and their families during and after a hostage or wrongful detention situation.

Hostage US is uniquely positioned to equip organizations with the necessary training and expertise to effectively provide support. Our education options provide organizations with specialized knowledge in supporting employees’ families during hostage scenarios or wrongful detentions and reintegration after the situation is concluded.

Through our training, organizations are tasked with considering key aspects of support to ensure that they are prepared to work with both families and returned captives when necessary. The training guides teams through assessments that delve into your company’s preparedness in terms of duty of care and internal resources and identify gaps that need to be addressed.

Through this article, you will get a glimpse into the considerations and areas of support that your organization must consider and provide to a family and a returning employee after a hostage-taking or wrongful detention situation.

You have an employee taken captive: What’s next?

Initially, you will gather your crisis team to learn more about the situation and bring in experts as needed to support your operational response. On the support side, if you are first to learn about captivity, you must communicate this to the family. Be sure that whoever informs the family is trained in communication and active listening skills and has the most up-to-date information about the situation going into the meeting. This first meeting will happen quickly, and it will be difficult. Being prepared for this conversation will set the tone for all upcoming interactions with the family and will help relieve some of the challenges that could surface as time goes on. Even if you do not break the news to the family, your organization should schedule a meeting as soon as possible with the family.

As an organization, you will want to ensure you have a follow-up and communication plan with the family to ensure you are keeping them informed and that you are engaged with one another throughout the case. Initial and ongoing communications are imperative to building trust with your employees’ families.

The case continues: What areas of support should you provide?

Hostage and wrongful detention cases can last anywhere from a few hours to several years. Especially when faced with a politically motivated wrongful detention situation, your organization should set up a longterm plan for working with the family which should include, among other things, a clear point of contact. Identifying the right person to be the family contact is imperative to ensure open and clear communications from the family to the organization and vice versa. This contact person should keep the family updated, informed, and involved.

As you start to support the family, consider what you can offer and be clear with the family about your limitations. Continuing the salary can be the difference between a family being able to pay their electric bill or not, and continuing their health insurance ensures continuity of care for the family during an incredibly stressful and traumatic time. If it is possible to continue both of these as well as any other benefits, be sure to communicate this to the family as soon as possible so they can be put at ease. Depending on your organization’s resources, you may also be in a position to assist the family with other issues like locating mental healthcare, providing support on media and social media, or helping to address the practical problems that the family faces because of the kidnapping.

In addition to doing everything you can for the employee and working for their release, family support is integral to the successful response to hostage-taking or wrongful detention. It likely not only aligns with your organization’s values of taking care of your people, but it also ensures you and the family are working as a team to get the employee home. There is a myriad of challenges that the families of hostages and wrongful detainees will face throughout the lifecycle of a case, and any support you can offer to ease the burden will strengthen your relationship with the family and make an incredibly difficult situation more bearable.

After resolution: How will you get your employee back to work?

Just as you must support the employee’s family while their loved one is being held, you will also need to support your employee after their return. There are several things you can do in preparation for the release such as identifying support staff for the returnee’s reintegration at the workplace, and educating your staff on the issue of hostage taking, and the effects it may have on their co-workers. The more prepared everyone is, the better it will be for everyone.

Once your employee is back home, you will want to hold a return-to-work conversation. This will help you understand their desires, and the information you receive and share during this conversation will ensure you can help the employee ease back into work. After such a traumatic experience, their capacity to take on the same responsibilities, follow their previous schedule, or work in the same location might have changed. The conversation will help you gauge what your employees need, and you should go into that conversation with an understanding of the benefits and limitations of your organization. For example, can you continue to pay that employee’s salary if they are not ready to return to work, and if so, for how long?

It is helpful to ensure the returning employee has a point of contact assigned to them within your organization who can focus on sharing information and help in their journey to recovery. The contact person will share other resources to support their recovery, which might include Hostage US, local support services, or benefits from your organization’s emergency support programs. It is important to be open and honest about your role in the response efforts, what happened while they were being held, and how you supported their family.

In preparation: What do you need to consider as an organization?

It is vital for you to have policies and resources in place to support families during a kidnapping and help hostages reintegrate to life upon their return. Hostage US can help you understand your responsibility and help create policies and resources in preparation for an employee being kidnapped. Our curriculum is uniquely focused on family support and hostage reintegration and includes best practices. We help organizations address the following questions:

  • What is your duty of care? How far does your obligation extend to supporting employees and their families, and how does this align with your company’s ethos?
  • What internal resources can be mobilized in a hostage or wrongful detention situation?
  • Where do you identify gaps in support and resources, and how can these gaps be addressed?

Education and training are the tenets of the Duty of Care; they support staff retention and foster a positive corporate culture. For more information on how Hostage US can help your organization, visit: hostageus.org/organizations