Business Travel Policies – Best Practice, Purpose & Expenses
The Purpose of a Travel Policy
For any organisation whose staff travel regularly on business, whether or not they have an in-house travel manager, or use the services of a travel management company (TMC), a business travel policy is essential. A cogent policy gives everyone a framework they can work with fairly, cutting down on any awkward negotiations which may otherwise take place.
A clear, but flexible enough, policy gives everyone peace of mind. Staff can book their own travel safe in the knowledge that they’re getting what they’re entitled to without worrying they’re taking liberties, while management can be confident that their travel budget is being spent prudently with minimal policing.
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Corporate Travel Policy Best Practices
A solid policy should cover things like class of and type of admissible accommodation (which nowadays could well include alternative options to hotels, like serviced apartments and AirBnB), taxis and airport transfers, car hire, when staff can travel in economy premiere or business class, when they can travel with a partner or their families, and how much they can legitimately spend on meals while on the road.
Growing environmental consciousness and corporate social responsibility means that sensible policies might also cover rail and ground travel where practical too.
These days growing trends like bleisure need to be factored in too. It’s becoming increasingly common for senior executives to tack on a few days’ exploration onto long haul trips, and the ability to do so has been shown to have a positive impact on your travellers’ wellbeing and productivity, so it’s worth thinking about how you make allowances for this. Do you allow them to add an additional 2 days stay at the same hotel at a preferential rate for example, or to fly back from another airport nearby if they are travelling on somewhere else?
Travel Expenses Policies
What tools and systems do you have in place to help your travellers track and log their expenses while they’re on the road? Does your booking system effectively enforce your policy for you, restricting the type of bookings that can be made through it, depending on the length and type of trip and the traveller’s seniority?
Most policies allow basic travel expenses on a set per diem rate covering two or three meals a day (assuming breakfast is included in the hotel room rate) but for some roles you may need to factor in other expenses such as client entertainment, making sure you’re clear about a set expense limit per event and the point at which they will require further approval.
They should also stipulate that personal alcohol consumption is generally not covered and will need to be separated out from any hotel tabs and settled in person.
You should also consider a standard allowance for tips, perhaps up to 20% for meal bills settled on the road, while additional expenses such as phone calls and use of hotel lounge day passes, and possibly even gyms for the more progressive employers, might also be factored in.
When it comes to hotel options, you might want to specify an acceptable distance from the city centre or airport, which still gives your travellers enough reasonable choice. In some more remote destinations, there may only be a limited volume of 4 star or under hotels and you don’t want to force your travellers to spend an hour getting to their meeting or event because your policy is too rigid. Similarly, your policy should be clear about the process for applying for special authorisations not covered by it.
Corporate Travel Policy for Business Class
It’s generally accepted that most short haul travel should be taken in economy class, but a sound policy should have a clear guideline about what constitutes long haul (usually over four hours) and in what instances they can book business class instead of premium economy or some other intermediate service standard.
If your company talks advantage of any corporate loyalty points schemes then it’s worth stipulating exactly when these rewards can be redeemed and by whom.
Travel policies aren’t just about setting appropriate limits on spend of course. They should also cover important matters like safety, especially for lone female travellers. For some it may be important, for example, to be book a room on a female only floor of a hotel or to avoid ground floor rooms which can be broken into more easily.
A little peace of mind goes a long way and as travel managers your duty of care for your employees needs to be taken very seriously, especially in today’s increasingly complicated world. If your staff are travelling to a country or region identified as politically unstable by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, make sure they’re thoroughly briefed in advance and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Clear and thorough safety guidelines built into your policy also ensures that your organisation is covered from an insurance perspective should your travellers fail to act with appropriate caution in any situation which may arise.
Your travellers will also need to know what the correct procedure is in emergency situations abroad. They’ll naturally want to know who their first point of should contact be and what immediate assistance they can access.
Implementing Your Travel Policy
Of course, once you have a policy in place, you still have to work on its use in practice. Consider how transparent the policy’s language is, avoiding too much legalese where possible. Is it accessible enough for a new junior recruit, have you actually tested its comprehension on your staff?
How might you enforce your policy, and can you be sure that your staff actually understand it, are they any grey area opens to interpretation? It’s worth investing in some basic training and workshops to this end.
Finally, you might want to think about reviewing and updating your policy on a regular timeframe, at least annually. Travel is a fast moving business after all, and as the Covid-19 crisis has shown us, exceptional events can and will arise. It pays to implement a policy that can adapt and evolve as needed.
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