Planning to Combine Business and Leisure Travel? You’re Not Alone.

On a Sunday in late January, Melinda Buchmann, who lives in Florida and supervises client relations for RevShoppe, a 30-person remote company advising organizations on sales techniques and strategies, arrived in Banff, Alberta, to help set up a four-day company meeting.

The last day of the event, her husband, Josh, a director of strategic partnerships for the delivery company DoorDash, who also works remotely, joined her. They spent two leisurely days hiking in Banff National Park and visiting Lake Louise.

“I take advantage, because I don’t know when I’m going to return,” Ms. Buchmann said of the decision to combine downtime with a business trip.

As postpandemic work life has changed, and arrangements now include full-time office attendance as well as hybrid and remote work, so, too, has business travel. The phenomenon known as bleisure, or blended business and leisure travel, was initially embraced largely by digital nomads. But such combined travel is now also popular with people outside that group. Allied Market Research, a subsidiary of Allied Analytics, based in Portland, Ore., estimated that the bleisure travel market was $315.3 billion in 2022 and would reach $731.4 billion by 2032.

As employees increasingly add leisure time to their business trips, companies are struggling to determine where their legal obligation to protect employees from harm — their so-called duty of care — begins and ends. And workers may think that because their trip started with business, they will get all the help they need if something goes wrong on the leisure end. Instead, they should generally consider the leisure part of a trip as a regular vacation where they cover all expenses and contingencies.

Companies are responsible for knowing where their employees are during a business trip, covering expenses if an accident or emergency occurs, securing new lodging if a hotel is damaged, even swapping out a broken down rental car. Still, it’s not entirely clear if that coverage ends completely after the conference or the last client meeting.

Companies recognize that threats are increasing, said Robert Cole, senior research analyst focusing on lodging and leisure travel at Phocuswright, a market research company. They are trying to figure out how to take care of a valuable company resource, the employee, without leaving themselves open to financial risk or potential litigation.

“Crafting a comprehensive policy that balances business objectives, employee well-being and legal considerations can be challenging,” Nikolaos Gkolfinopoulos, head of tourism at ICF, a consulting and technology services company in Reston, Va., wrote in an email.

Employees may be on their own without realizing it and may be surprised by out-of-pocket expenses if they require hospital care abroad or evacuation, said Suzanne Morrow, chief executive of InsureMyTrip, an online insurance travel comparison site in Warwick, R.I.

Ms. Morrow said medical coverage provided by a company “is generally only for the dates of the actual business trip abroad.” If travelers are extending the trip for personal travel, she added, “they would want to secure emergency medical coverage for that additional time abroad.”

Employers and employees are left to figure out when the business portion of the trip ends and the leisure segment begins, a significant detail if an employee has a medical emergency. “Where does the corporation liability end?” said Kathy Bedell, senior vice president at BCD Travel, a travel management company.

Companies have varying policies to deal with the new travel amalgam. The chief executive of RevShoppe, Patricia McLaren, based in Austin, Texas, said the company provided flexible travel options and allowed employees to work anywhere they choose.

Even so, there are constraints. The company requires all employees, including executives, to sign liability and insurance waivers when they are on a voluntary company-sponsored trip, such as an off-site meeting. Such waivers typically place responsibility on employees for their own well-being. And if they bring someone, they are responsible for that person’s expenses.

Employees are responsible for requesting the paid time off and notifying their managers of their whereabouts, although that part is not a requirement. Managers have to ensure adequate staffing, Ms. McLaren said.

Elsewhere, employees may not bother to mention the leisure portion of their trip. Eliot Lees, a vice president and managing director at ICF, said he had been on trips as a child with his parents when they combined business and leisure. His parents were academics, who would piggyback vacations onto conferences.

Now he does the same. “I don’t think I ever asked for approval,” he said. (ICF has no formal business-leisure travel policy. It’s allowed as part of personal time off.) After a conference in the Netherlands last year, he spent four days hiking in the northern part of the country.

“I go anywhere, and take more risks than I should,” he said. He said he didn’t carry personal travel or accident insurance.

Any nonchalance may quickly evaporate if a threat emerges. Security experts say even low-risk locations can become high-risk for a few days or weeks of the year.

“Companies are concerned about losing visibility into a traveler’s whereabouts if they booked flights and hotels outside their corporate travel management company,” Benjamin Thorne, senior intelligence manager in London for Crisis24, a subsidiary of GardaWorld, wrote in an email. “The company may think the traveler is in one city when, in reality, they could have booked a holiday package to another nearby city. This lack of visibility by the company makes it difficult to support travelers when a disaster occurs.”

He also raised the possibility that “a traveler with bleisure travel reservations and expectations may find their work trip canceled due to changes in the risk environment or company policy, disrupting their leisure plans.”

Will a company step in off hours if there’s a problem? “That depends on how you are booked,” Mr. Cole, the senior research analyst at Phocuswright, said. A rule of thumb is the further you get from corporate control, the greater the gray area gets.

Half of GoldSpring Consulting’s clients take the responsibility for the entire trip, said Will Tate, a partner at the consultancy based in Cross Roads, Texas, and a certified public accountant. They don’t want the reputational risk. The other half say: “The business trip ended Friday. That’s when we end our duty of care.”

Some companies are trying to define and narrow the gray area. “If you are clearly on personal time, there is no legal requirement for your employer to provide for you,” said Nicole Page, a lawyer whose practice includes employment law at Reavis Page Jump in New York.

Uber provides employees with advisories before a trip, travel assessments, safety tips while traveling and emergency travel assistance, including medical aid, airport travel support, urgent and emergency assistance, and lost or stolen personal property insurance whether they are on business or pleasure travel or a combination.

And at DoorDash, Chris Cherry, head of global safety and security, wrote in an email that “while personal travel is not something we track, we have received requests to extend our travel support capabilities to personal travel.” Mr. Cherry said in those cases, the company has manually added employee leisure itineraries to its travel risk management system and “provided the same level of overwatch that we do for regular business travel.”

The Buchmanns plan to travel this month to Barcelona, Spain, for the McDonald’s Worldwide Convention. DoorDash will have a booth, and Mr. Buchmann will work on the exhibit floor and also entertain clients.

Ms. Buchmann will accompany him. She plans to go sightseeing in the morning, and work in the afternoons and evenings Barcelona time. She will also take three days of paid time off and has shared her plans with Ms. McLaren, the RevShoppe chief executive.

They will stay a day after the conference and plan to visit the Dalí Theater and Museum in Figueres. “I’m sure there will be no shortage of tapas and window shopping along way,” Mr. Buchmann said. He expects to be back at work the next Monday.