It is a myth that most business travellers resent their employer’s corporate travel policy. The truth is that most employees like to know what is expected of them and how to comply with a corporate policy, providing that it is fair and allows them to accomplish the purposes of their trip effectively. Therefore, a well devised business travel policy is of benefit to both company and business traveller alike.
If you are responsible for creating your business travel policy, it is fair to assume that your goal is to develop one that standardises business expenses and reduces unnecessary costs whilst travelling. Although this might sound easy, attempting to please both employees and company simultaneously can be challenging, when their demands can be in direct conflict with each other. The company understandably wants to save money, whilst the traveller, from our experience, wants to ensure flexibility, comfort and convenience.
This can make it difficult for the person in charge of the policy, as they are trying to please all parties. The best way to overcome this is to conduct a survey to ascertain the priorities of all concerned and to devise an effective policy, accordingly.
When putting together a travel policy, there are some definite focus areas you should always include:
Your corporate travel policy should clearly communicate to the traveller what their daily expense limits are for hotels, rental cars and meals. This way you will be able to keep the travel budget under control. This part of the policy should be reviewed annually, to allow for changing costs.
A Uniform Travel Booking System
A business can benefit hugely by using a corporate travel agent such as A&G. This enables your principal travel expenses to be recorded in one place. If individual travellers book their travel online, you need to chase and collate all their expenses, which can be labour intensive and time-consuming. Most TMCs use reporting tools that can give you a quick snapshot of your expenditure for specified time periods either for individual travellers, specific departments or for your whole company.
A business travel agent will usually have access to the best prices, as they have negotiated fares directly with airlines and hotels. A skilled agent will match the most suitable of these fares with your travellers’ requirements for flexibility, timings and airline/cabin preference.
Travel Rewards (Frequent Flyers)
If you have your corporate travel coordinated by an internal or external travel agency, corporate accounts with the major airlines can be set up to allow accumulation of frequent flyer miles for your business. These miles can then be redeemed against future travel, reducing company expenditure in the long term. Your travel agent will be able to help with details on how to sign up.
One of the main complaints employees have about corporate travel policies is that their expense reporting systems are cryptic and difficult to use. Typically, they are required to complete a standardised form in order to be reimbursed for travel expenses. It is advisable to review and adapt these forms to ensure that the format is coherent and that all possible expense categories are covered.
In addition to the main expense categories, your corporate travel policies should include some leverage for employees who are confronted with exceptional situations. Room and food expenses can vary widely depending on where the employee must travel to. Consequently, setting a hotel spend limit of, say, £125 per night, might be reasonable for a good standard of hotel in Manchester, but not for an employee conducting business in central London. Expense limits must be realistic and adaptable.
Setting up corporate credit cards which your employees can use can be time-consuming. However, by linking all expenses to a corporate account you will gain easy access to a record of most of the business expenses that your employees are incurring. Many travel costs, such as those for flights and hotels, can be directly billed back to the company, minimising inconvenience for the individual business traveller.
A company travel policy should also state which items are not covered on expenses, so the employee is clear on which items they can and cannot claim. Some common non-claimable items include:
- Room service
- Tips (e.g. in hotels/taxis)
- Dry cleaning
- Airline upgrades (unless the TMC has managed to get you a free upgrade)
- Parking fines
By making these very clear from the outset it will avoid any problems further down the line.
Safety and duty of care
It is the company’s responsibility to protect their employees whilst travelling. Therefore, it is important to state in your travel expense policy that travellers should submit copies of their travel itinerary, hotel contact details and an emergency contact number. If your company has travel insurance, travellers should be made aware of what this covers so they are aware if they need to purchase their own additional cover.
By creating a travel policy which protects the corporate budget but is also practical for the employees in your company, you will have a system that will serve both company and employee interests and enable business travel to be a productive, business-focused activity which achieves the goals of your enterprise.
A&G is an independent business travel company based in Kingston.