IRC Duty of Care Glossary

Acute Stress Reaction: the body’s natural reaction to an unexpected high stress event. Acute stress reactions typically develop over the minutes and hours following an unexpected highly stressful event and can include anxiety, low mood, emotional ups and downs, poor sleep, poor concentration, poor appetite, rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, stomach upset, chest pain, and headaches. These symptoms usually resolve without intervention in the course of hours or days.

Acknowledgement of Risk: a documentation tool sometimes used by organizations as part of the informed consent process whereby a worker acknowledges that they have received the organization’s risks related information.

Benefits: non-wage compensation provided by employers to its workers above and beyond normal salary or wages. Some benefits are mandated as part of the compensation package by national labor laws while others are voluntarily provided by the employer. Examples of benefits include sick days, vacation days, health insurance/health allowance, accident and disability insurance, life insurance, retirement accounts, parental leave, and others.

Burnout: a workplace stress reaction commonly identified with chronic stress in the helping professions. Burnout is typically associated with feeling emotional exhaustion, increasing cynicism about and disengagement with work, and reduced performance.

Compassion Fatigue: a state in which an individual may have trouble feeling empathy for “regular” problems after being exposed to extreme problems. Compassion fatigue is one manifestation of vicarious trauma, and is often reported in aid workers and other professional care givers at various times in their careers.

Coping / Coping Strategies: Coping refers to cognitive and behavioral strategies that people use to overcome, reduce, or tolerate stressful situations or difficult demands.

Critical incident: A safety or security incident that significantly disrupts the organization’s capacity to operate; typically life is lost or threatened.

Disability: Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. (Definition provided by World Health Organization)

Disability Accommodation: any changes to a position or work environment that will enable an individual to do his or her job despite having a disability.

Duty of Care: the obligations carried by an employer to support the safety, security, health, and wellbeing of its workers.

Duty of Responsibility: the obligations of workers to their employer to exercise self-care, to follow organizational policies, and to utilize the supportive services provided by the employer.

Employee Assistance and Resilience Program (EARP): a program that provides remote (phone or internet calling) counseling support to all IRC staff and their families. They provide counseling on concerns including grief, trauma, management challenges, relationship, financial, emotional, family issues and substance use. This program, provided by Konterra, utilizes counselors who have at least two years of experience working in humanitarian settings, and enables IRC staff and their families to access counseling support in their preferred language from a counselor of their preferred gender. The service is free to staff as part of IRC’s benefits package and is completely confidential, with no details of any session becoming available to IRC leaders at any time.

Employee Resource Groups (ERG): also known as affinity groups, ERGs are groups of workers who voluntarily join together in their workplace based on shared life experiences. The purpose of these groups is usually rooted in peer to peer support, but they can also provide services to the wider community and to organizational leadership. Examples of employee resource groups at the IRC include the “LGBTQ Employee Resource Group” and “Women @ Work” groups.

Ethics and Compliance Unit (ECU): the unit at IRC that is responsible for ensuring that IRC conducts its humanitarian mission in accordance with the organization’s values, policies and procedures, the IRC Way, and all applicable laws and regulations. Specific initiatives and programs overseen by the ECU include: IRC Code of Conduct, IRC Anti-Fraud program, Enterprise Risk Management process, Safeguarding, investigations of alleged breaches of the IRC Way and the law, and related staff training and communications in these areas.

Fitness for Duty: fit for duty means that an individual is in a physical, mental, and emotional state which enables the employee to perform the essential tasks of his or her work assignment in a manner which does not threaten the safety or health of oneself, co-workers, property, or the public at large.

Gender Equality: Gender Equality is defined as the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women, men, girls and boys. Equality does not mean women and men are the same, but rather that each person’s rights, responsibilities, access and opportunities do not depend on whether they are born male or female. GE is also the name of a unit at the IRC that is charged with assisting the organization to meet its commitment to ensure that women and girls achieve the same outcomes as men and boys in both IRC’s program outcomes and internal operations.

Infection Prevention and Control: a science-based system of controls used in health care settings to control the spread of infection for the safety of workers and beneficiaries. It includes the use of personal protective equipment, work-flow guidelines, behavior change strategies, and quality management systems.

Informed Consent: a term describing the permission granted by a worker based on knowledge of possible risks associated with the work assignment. Informed consent at the IRC is usually documented after a worker has received pre-assignment briefing, or safety and security briefing, and acknowledge their understanding and acceptance of the risks associated with their work with the IRC.

IRC Way (Code of Conduct): IRC’s official standards for professional conduct. It is based on IRC’s core values of Integrity, Service, and Accountability, and guides all organizational actions, both internal and external. “The IRC Way: Standards for Professional Conduct” is IRC’s Code of Conduct, available on RescueNet in 19 languages.

ISOS: International SOS, also known as ISOS, is a service provider contracted by the IRC to provide international medical and travel assistance to the organization’s staff. ISOS provides IRC staff with comprehensive travel health and security information based on location, can assist staff in identifying high quality medical providers in their location, and can arrange for medical evacuation and services in situations where high quality care is unavailable locally.

Konterra: a benefits vendor contracted by the IRC to provide remote psychosocial counseling support to IRC staff and their families as part of the Employee Assistance and Resilience Program (EARP).

Medical Evacuation: also known as “medevac” is the transfer of a patient by road, air or sea for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in another location and the medical care provided along the way.

Medical Insurance/ Health Insurance: a type of insurance coverage that pays all or some of the costs for insured individuals to receive medical and surgical care. Depending on the type of insurance coverage, the costs for medical care are either paid by the individual and then reimbursed by the insurance company, or costs could be paid directly by the insurance company to the medical provider.

Medical Allowance/ Health Allowance: a fixed allowance provided by an employer to its employees on a monthly basis to cover their health care related expenses. This allowance is provided whether the employee incurs health care related expenses or not and is often used as preferred benefit option in areas where health insurance is not commonly accepted by medical providers, where health insurance is not available/ is cost prohibitive, or where health care is provided by government.

Occupational Safety & Health Laws: policies enacted by some national governments that set standards for workplace safety. While these policies are well developed in most Western countries they are somewhat new to the rest of the world. As a result, many international companies and organizations voluntarily adopt the prevailing standards set by Western national policies for their offices globally.

Peer to Peer Solidarity Groups: groups of employees that voluntarily come together to organize ways to support one another and the workplace as a whole. Examples of these groups at the IRC include Wellness Committees, Staff Welfare Groups, and Social Activity Committees which focus on supporting the workplace environment in specific ways. Related activities could include sponsoring healthy activities after work like sports teams or walking groups, developing and administering a benevolence fund to assist staff who are experiencing hardship, or planning fun social activities for the staff community.

PEP: an acronym for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, which is the emergency administration of antiretroviral drugs after a potential exposure to HIV as a strategy to prevent infection. PEP is best administered within 72 hours of exposure. All IRC offices should be stocked with PEP as part of the Post-Rape Kits, which are accessible through the Sexual Violence Focal Point, HR, Safety and Security, or office leadership.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): protective clothing or other garments worn to protect the wearer from injury or infection. Examples of PPE utilized in IRC work sites include medical gloves, goggles, foot protection, masks, and medical gowns.

Plan B/ Morning After Pill: a drug called levonogesterel which is used for emergency contraception. This medicine is included in the Post-Rape Kits that are available in all IRC work sites.

Post-Rape Kit: the package of materials included at all IRC worksites to support survivors of sexual violence with emergency medical care. PEP Kits include the antiretroviral medicine used to prevent HIV infection, a pregnancy test, Plan B, WHO guidelines for PEP Kits, guidelines for physicians if dealing with survivors of sexual violence, guidelines for patients who have experienced sexual violence, and consent forms to be signed by the patient/staff.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a mental health condition developed by some people after experiencing or witnessing a life threatening event. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing of the event through dreams or intrusive memories, changing behavior to avoid situations or people that are reminders of the event, feelings like depression, guilt, and anxiety, and a constant feeling of alertness for danger. PTSD symptoms could appear soon after the event or take months or even years to develop, but usually have to be present and disruptive to an individual’s life for more than two months for a positive diagnosis. PTSD can be treated through a variety of approaches including counseling, behavioral therapies, and medication.

Psychological First Aid (PFA): an evidence-based approach to supporting individuals in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event to reduce their initial distress and promote effective coping in the short and long term. PFA is not psychotherapy or counseling, but rather is a sequence of simple techniques that can be taught to anyone. These techniques involve identifying signs of distress, engaging in compassionate listening, and linking the impacted individuals with supportive services.

Psychosocial: a term that relates to any approach that considers the combined influence of personal factors and the social environment on an individual’s physical and mental wellbeing. Psychosocial approaches developed in psychology as a response to the perceived weaknesses of models that considered individuals as separate from their social communities.

Rape: non-consensual sexual intercourse. Rape may involve all or any penetration, however slight, of the mouth, vagina, or anus with a penis, another body part, or object.

Resilience: the ability to withstand and recover from significant stress or adversity.

Right to Refuse Work: policies, usually established by national occupational safety & health laws, that provide workers with the right to refuse any work assignment based on concern for their own safety without negative consequences to their employment. IRC maintains a Right to Refuse Work policy for all workers globally.

Safeguarding: a term that refers to efforts taken by an organization to protect beneficiaries from exploitation and abuse. At the IRC safeguarding also includes efforts taken by the organization to protect staff from sexual harassment. This function at the IRC is overseen by the Director of Safeguarding, who works in the Ethics and Compliance Unit, and supported by the organization’s cross-functional Safeguarding Task Force.

Safety: freedom from risk or harm as a result of unintentional acts (Ex: accidents, natural phenomena, or illness)

Security: freedom from risk or harm resulting from violence or other intentional acts.

Self-care: any activity that an individual deliberately takes to care for their own mental, emotional, and physical health. Self-care encompasses a wide variety of approaches, but usually all focusing on restoring a sense of balance in one’s life.

Sexual Assault: any form of non-consensual sexual contact that does not result in, or include, penetration. This includes attempted rape, unwanted kissing, fondling or touching of genitalia or buttocks. It can also include being forced to watch sexual acts or pornography without consent.

Sexual Exploitation: any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability or trust for sexual purposes.

Sexual Exploitation & Abuse (SEA): a term used in the humanitarian community to refer to any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability or trust for sexual purposes.

Sexual Harassment: a term that describes any unwelcome or non-consensual advances of a sexual nature, including requests for sexual favors or sexual conduct of a verbal, physical, or visual nature. Acts of sexual harassment fall along a continuum ranging from implicit to explicit actions.

Staff Care: a specific set of services, tools, and resources that an organization puts in place to support healthy psychosocial functioning in its workforce.

Staff Health/ Occupational Health: all aspects of health and safety in the workplace and the explicit actions that an organization takes to support the health of its workforce in relation to the specific risks present in the work place environment.

Staff Participation Groups: groups which play a formal or informal role in representing staff concerns to senior management. At the IRC these include Personnel Committees, Staff Representation Groups, and other groups where staff members collect staff ideas and concerns and relate them to leadership. In some cases, these groups also have a role to play in addressing the identified concerns through activities and information sharing.

Stress: There are many definitions of stress, but one useful way of thinking about the concept it as the set of emotional and physiological reactions that accompany increasing demands made on an individual.

Survivor-Centered Approach: a term describing an approach to supporting individuals who have experienced a traumatic event that prioritizes the rights, needs, and wishes of the survivor. This includes the rights to be treated with dignity and respect rather than being exposed to victim-blaming attitudes, to choose the course of action in dealing with the violence instead of feeling powerless, to have privacy and confidentiality respected, to not be discriminated against, and to receive comprehensive information to enable informed decision making. Survivor-centered approaches are often discussed in contradiction to other approaches that prioritize organizational risk reduction. However, there are many ways to balance the need to protect the whole while also supporting the wellbeing and recovery of the person wronged. The Safeguarding Task Force is one such forum at the IRC that brings together multiple disciplines to discuss and reconcile tensions between survivor-centered and organizational/whole-staff focused approaches in the organization’s policies.

Trauma: a term that has many definitions, but in the Duty of Care setting, trauma is a term that is used to describe the cognitive and emotional aftermath of having experienced a terrifying event that breaks past one’s normal ability to cope.

Traumatic Event: a term used to describe any terrifying event that breaks past normal coping strategies.

Trauma-Informed Approach: a term that describes any program, organization, or system that fully integrates knowledge about trauma and recovery into its policies and practices in an effort to actively resist re-traumatization. Trauma-informed approaches are ones that prioritize personal sense of safety for individuals who have experienced trauma, are structured to ensure trustworthiness and transparency, utilize peer support, empower survivors with choice, ensure collaboration and mutuality, and consider cultural, historical, and gender issues. Several of IRC’s staff support functions like the Sexual Violence Functional Policy are designed to be trauma-informed.

Vicarious Trauma: the cumulative emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of caring about the suffering of others over time. Vicarious trauma is most associated with a disrupted sense of spirituality, meaning, and hope, but it can also manifest in other ways that mimic direct traumatic exposure. Vicarious trauma is considered an occupational hazard for professionals whose work puts them in direct contact with the suffering of others.

Wellbeing: a general sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, and positive functioning.

Worker’s Compensation: a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to workers who are injured or become ill from a direct work-related cause.

Work-Life Balance: a term that refers to an individual’s ability to optimally balance work demands with personal life demands, enabling positive results in both while keeping stress at a manageable level. Work-life balance is a controversial term in psychology due to its subjectivity. What is an optimal balance for one individual can be quite different from person to person and even change from one time in a person’s life to another. Despite its elusive nature, the term has achieved widespread usage and is associated with a large variety of strategies and tactics that individuals and organizations utilize to enable employees to cope with the demands of their particular work places

September 2018 Update