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Reasonable corporate travel policy

Reasonable corporate travel policy

Old Jun 3, 14, 4:12 pm
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Question Reasonable corporate travel policy

I hope this thread is in the right forum... I tried doing a search but didn't find anything relevant. Mods feel free to merge/move if I missed something!

We're a small company with relatively few travellers. Our owner, a couple members of upper management and a couple senior employees do the bulk of the travelling. We have no established corporate policy other than to let employees use their discretion. We reimburse employees for their travel expenses, don't use per diems and, for the most part, don't require any sort of time sheet to justify where you've been or who you've seen. It might sound unsophisticated, but it works well for us!

In a couple of weeks, we'll have two of our most junior employees head to the far east. They've been asking totally reasonable newbie questions which ordinarily would be answered by a company-wide travel policy. The main question involves timekeeping, particularly with regards to overtime.

In your experience, what works best in terms of striking a balance between fairness and being a responsible employer? Keep in mind that this particular trip includes 1.5 weekends for which hotel and meals will be covered but the employees will not be working.

A few ideas we've bounced around amongst upper managers:
  • Record all hours spent travelling and working then pay overtime accordingly;
  • Allow 2-3 days paid leave upon return as compensation;
  • Accrue overtime on site but not during transit.

Thanks much!
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Old Jun 3, 14, 4:29 pm
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Reasonable corporate travel policy

Are they hourly employees subject to overtime laws in your particular state/city? We often send staff to London and they spend the weekend in city -we save airfare costs and they get a weekend in London. As salaried staff we do not need to compensate "overtime" or provide additional time off as the UK visit is part of the job requirements.
Do you keep time sheets, pay overtime or give comp time to all travelers? it should be the same for all unless again subject to laws in my opinion. I'm a corporate travel manager and do HR for a small firm. while it is nice to give comp days for the long trip what if another traveler wanted that too and you said no? I think you end up in HR territory
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Old Jun 3, 14, 4:33 pm
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Yeah, thanks for the feedback -- this is definitely HR territory and will need to be polished by our HR team. We're just trying to establish a direction we're comfortable with and before we iron out all the details.

The employees who do most of the current travelling are salaried. The junior employees headed to the far east are salaried and ordinarily submit time sheets and are eligible for overtime.

I can't imagine we'd ever say no to someone who travelled sufficiently for a comp day off, but I guess that's why policies exist
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Old Jun 3, 14, 8:50 pm
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Here are a few thoughts:

1. Providing guidelines on expenses for will help a lot for your less experienced employees; and probably some of the veterans, too.

1a. For food you might recommend limits per meal such as $15 breakfast, $20 lunch, and $40 dinner. You could choose higher or lower numbers based on what you and your fellow managers consider reasonable. But whatever you decided, don't make them hard-and-fast limits; allow a person to have an expensive meal on Tuesday after eating cheap on Monday, for example. Make exceptions when there's a good reason, especially if the reason is being in the center of a high-cost city. And, of course, these guidelines are for personal meals and don't apply if an employee is entertaining a business contact. (Ask for written description of the business contact and purpose.)

1b. For lodging you can try setting a dollar limit but it's tricky. As a small company you might find it works better to create a shared understanding about the quality of hotels employees can expect to stay in by suggesting examples as a tier. For example, Courtyard/Hampton Inn/Holiday Inn Express if you're frugal. Marriott/Hilton/Hyatt if you're more spendy. JW/Intercontinental/Four Seasons if you're high end.

2. If work requires an employee to be on the road for two weeks, give them the option of going home for the weekend (if that's feasible) or staying in-city at the company's expense. Roughly speaking the costs are a wash for the company -- a few extra days of hotel and food versus an extra roundtrip of airfare -- but letting employees choose increases their satisfaction.

3. As for the salary implications of spending late hours and weekends on travel duty, consult an HR professional familiar with the laws of your country, state or province, and city. I know that in my home state, for example, the seemingly reasonable concept of "comp time" is broadly treated as a labor law violation by the state authorities. Companies here open themselves to liability if they institute a formal comp time practice.
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Old Jun 3, 14, 9:52 pm
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1a (food) and 1b (lodging) -- you might consider starting with the government per diem guidelines for these expenses
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Old Jun 4, 14, 3:20 am
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Originally Posted by darthbimmer View Post
2. If work requires an employee to be on the road for two weeks, give them the option of going home for the weekend (if that's feasible) or staying in-city at the company's expense.
Well, there is no other option. You can't expect them to stay and cover their own expenses for the weekend. Since the OP mentioned the far east, I am assuming that a RT home for the weekend is impractical, which only leaves the option of staying and covering expenses.

To the OP: be aware that being away for weekends can appear as a treat to some but at the same time it can be a PITA because as a traveler you sacrifice your time - time you could have spent with family or friends, or doing something that is important to you.

Originally Posted by ffsim View Post
A few ideas we've bounced around amongst upper managers:
  • Record all hours spent travelling and working then pay overtime accordingly;
  • Allow 2-3 days paid leave upon return as compensation;
  • Accrue overtime on site but not during transit.
A few thoughts here:
- I think that giving up your own time to travel for business should be compensated. If you fly out on a Sunday to make it to a Monday morning meeting at your destination, you lose that Sunday. That's YOUR time that you're sacrificing and it's only fair to get a paid day off in return.
- For long trips, the key is to be reasonable. Understand ultimately that it's time spent for company purposes, which means it's essentially giving one's time to the company. Traveling should be compensated as normal working time.
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Old Jun 4, 14, 3:35 am
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Reasonable corporate travel policy

I think yours is the best travel policy there is, and I say this as someone who runs their own business. Hire good people, and let them use their common sense.

I'm not the person to ask regarding the HR aspects others have mentioned since in small businesses this is a solution to a problem best avoided. Again, if you hire good people and you genuinely work in partnership with each other none of this should matter. You're paying for hotels and meals, and whilst your employees will miss a weekend with family or girlfriends or whatever, you're giving them a valuable professional and cultural experience. It's give and take, part of the wider 'contract' you have with co-workers.
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Old Jun 4, 14, 5:33 am
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I respect and appreciate you wanting to give employees some latitude, but putting reasonable guidelines in place is only going to help you as your company grows. Better to put a policy in place now and avoid questions/headaches later.

My only advice is to make sure finance works out a plan with upper management. My frustration at my current position is that the folks in the travel department are bean counters and do not understand that while they found a hotel that is $50 cheaper, it is also going to cost 3x that amount in cabs I need to take from a greater distance. Or booking me on a non-preferred airline will cost the company an additional $100 in luggage fees and possibly more with seat changes.

Finally, IMO, it makes sense to at least outline a per diem for meals and let the employee choose how they want to spend the money. I have colleagues who are big breakfast eaters, but go light on lunch or dinner - others go big on dinner, but easy on breakfast.

Point being - put some guidelines in place while also empowering your employees to make smart decisions that cater to their comforts and protect the company's bottom line as well.

Good luck.
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Old Jun 4, 14, 5:42 am
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What you are offering is quite generous compared to what I experienced. My travel was mainly as a government contractor so I was required to follow the government requirements (federal travel regs) for per diem and lodging.

Travel on weekends was not considered paid time - they considered travel a benefit and thought we should be grateful to give up our free time to travel. That, however, was not my opinion. So we always tried to travel on work days.

We were paid for 8 hour days on days of travel and work days, regardless of whether we worked (or traveled) for more than 8 hours. No OT for weekend work.

per diem for meals on day of departure and arrival was based on time of departure or arrival. Say you departed home at 9am, then you got 67% of the daily per diem for that day (it was assumed that you ate breakfast at home). No receipts were required for meals because per diem was established for the location. So if you ate fast food or got your meals from the grocery store, you could bank a small amount; but if you went over the per diem, it was on your dime. per diem and lodging were covered if you had to stay over a weekend.

Ground transportation to/from airport was reimbursed at exact amount or if you drove your own car to the airport you were given a certain amount per mile plus reimbursed for parking.

Time off to recuperate after travel. Ha Ha!!! Arrived home from international travel at 2:00am on a Wednesday and was expected to be at work at 7:00am the same day (not so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed). Want that day off you had to use your vacation time.

As you can see, it was no great joy to travel as a gov contractor.
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Old Jun 4, 14, 7:57 am
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Thanks for all the replies. A few thoughts / answers:

Originally Posted by florin View Post
- I think that giving up your own time to travel for business should be compensated. If you fly out on a Sunday to make it to a Monday morning meeting at your destination, you lose that Sunday. That's YOUR time that you're sacrificing and it's only fair to get a paid day off in return.
- For long trips, the key is to be reasonable. Understand ultimately that it's time spent for company purposes, which means it's essentially giving one's time to the company. Traveling should be compensated as normal working time.
Absolutely. I cannot stress enough how "reasonable" our company is. It probably borders more on "generous" than anything else. But that doesn't mean we have a clear policy (we don't) and that doesn't prevent our generosity from being abused (sometimes it is).

Put differently: we would never force anyone to travel, let alone on a weekend. If an employee chooses to travel during his / her own time, it absolutely gets compensated. The reason for this thread is how should we compensate it so the employee feels he / she's getting a fair deal. Personally, I would never consider billing my company for the time I spend in a plane; if I'm travelling on a Sunday, I'm giving the company a day of my weekend because I determined that I can when the plans were made. And if I'm travelling on a workday, I'm getting paid anyway. In the end, I don't feel cheated one way or the other. But that's just me

Originally Posted by LondonElite View Post
I think yours is the best travel policy there is, and I say this as someone who runs their own business. Hire good people, and let them use their common sense.

I'm not the person to ask regarding the HR aspects others have mentioned since in small businesses this is a solution to a problem best avoided. Again, if you hire good people and you genuinely work in partnership with each other none of this should matter. You're paying for hotels and meals, and whilst your employees will miss a weekend with family or girlfriends or whatever, you're giving them a valuable professional and cultural experience. It's give and take, part of the wider 'contract' you have with co-workers.
This. I couldn't agree more with this. It's the way we've always run our business, and I don't see it changing fundamentally. Just wish I knew how to answer "do I get paid overtime for the 24 hours I'm spending in planes and airports" when the question comes up!

Originally Posted by RoadWarriorChi View Post
My only advice is to make sure finance works out a plan with upper management. My frustration at my current position is that the folks in the travel department are bean counters and do not understand that while they found a hotel that is $50 cheaper, it is also going to cost 3x that amount in cabs I need to take from a greater distance. Or booking me on a non-preferred airline will cost the company an additional $100 in luggage fees and possibly more with seat changes.
<snip>

Point being - put some guidelines in place while also empowering your employees to make smart decisions that cater to their comforts and protect the company's bottom line as well.

Good luck.
Finance = upper management

Seriously, our president is our heaviest traveller and understands the penny-wise, pound-foolish examples you gave above.

And that's exactly what we're looking to do -- establish guidelines. Thanks!

Originally Posted by STBCypriot View Post
What you are offering is quite generous compared to what I experienced.

<snip>

Time off to recuperate after travel. Ha Ha!!! Arrived home from international travel at 2:00am on a Wednesday and was expected to be at work at 7:00am the same day (not so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed). Want that day off you had to use your vacation time.

As you can see, it was no great joy to travel as a gov contractor.
Thanks, we'll be sure to do the exact opposite of everything you've experienced
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Old Jun 4, 14, 8:10 am
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You face two issues:

1. Legal - Consult an HR-type person about overtime/compensation issues. This may become about what you are required to do as opposed to what makes sense. Might as well know the rules and work from there.

2. Practical - It takes time, effort & money to develop and enforce rules. If you only have two junior people traveling and you spend time worrying about whether one took a cab when a bus would have done, you are losing money. People also have different jobs. Senior people may well have entertainment expenses which include taking clients out for meals and the like, while junior people may see meals as simple sustenance.

Much of the above can be accomplished by a short conversation. Are your junior people experienced and have they been to Asia before? Do they need a chat about what is reasonable? How about a conversation where you say something such as, "we would like to see you keep your hotel in the C$XXX range and your meals at C$YYY, but this is a benchmark not an absolute."

If you do this right, you can make this a positive, not a negative.
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Old Jun 4, 14, 8:20 am
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$100 a day for food, $250 US lodging ($350 for NY, Chicago, LA), $400 Europe, $500 Asia, allow room service and movie, no overtime for salaried employees, let them book their own flights– they know their schedules best, allow business class on overseas flights, buy them lounge access for a year (their choice).

It's not worth nickel and diming employees, they will just turn on you.

If you're a service business with billable hours, inform your clients of your policies and bill it through to them,
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Old Jun 4, 14, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Much of the above can be accomplished by a short conversation. Are your junior people experienced and have they been to Asia before? Do they need a chat about what is reasonable?

<snip>

If you do this right, you can make this a positive, not a negative.
Yes, we've absolutely had the discussion and they know what we consider reasonable. No one's trying to make this a negative at all, just not sure if it's reasonable or not to consider sitting in planes and airports for 24 hours "working". If it were me, and it took me say Wednesday and Thursday to get to Asia, I'm getting paid for the 16 working hours and wouldn't charge the other 8 as overtime. But that's me. I really don't know if it's reasonable to ask junior employees to do the same or if it's prudent to establish a hard-and-fast rule. From some of the replies, it looks like this is probably a legal issue for which I should seek more than just FT advice

One of the junior employees is Asian and knows the area quite well having visited family often in the past.

Originally Posted by CMH1k View Post
$100 a day for food, $250 US lodging ($350 for NY, Chicago, LA), $400 Europe, $500 Asia, allow room service and movie, no overtime for salaried employees, let them book their own flights– they know their schedules best, allow business class on overseas flights, buy them lounge access for a year (their choice).

It's not worth nickel and diming employees, they will just turn on you.

If you're a service business with billable hours, inform your clients of your policies and bill it through to them,
Totally agree about the nickel and dining. Unfortunately, we're not a service business will billable hours, so nothing's getting passed along to our clients.
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Old Jun 4, 14, 8:48 am
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Originally Posted by ffsim View Post
Just wish I knew how to answer "do I get paid overtime for the 24 hours I'm spending in planes and airports" when the question comes up!
A general observation is that the minute you get into fixing hard and fast rules, you're never going to be able to go back. If people ask you for compensation for time spent in planes I would gauge what you think their responses are going to be. If my first employer post university had the faith to send me to Asia to represent the company, I would have been delighted and the question of OT compensation would never have entered my mind!
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Old Jun 4, 14, 9:11 am
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If I travel during a regular work day (M-F) even if the time is outside of normal hours, I count it as a regular work day, and get paid as normal. If I have to travel on a weekend day (eg fly Sunday because I have to be someone at 8am on Monday) then I have the choice to claim additional time (similar to overtime) or take that day as a vacation day in the future. If it is my choice to travel on the weekend (e.g. I have to be there by 2pm Monday, and there are options for Monday morning travel) then if I choose to travel on the Sunday, there is nothing additional due to me.

In terms of spending the weekends away, to me it is absolutely a perk - to my good friend it is hell on earth! She has a little boy she misses terribly, and hates being in a strange city on her own - she would stay in the entire weekend, order room service, and skype her child! That makes it tricky to compensate appropriately - the best option I have seen is when I was working at a consulting company, negotiated for a long term contract with a client - you could either a) fly home and back again or b) apply the cost of the flight to staying in location (e.g. you could go on a day's sightseeing on the company's dollar) or c) you could fly to another location of your choice provided it was the same or less than flying home.

If this is just a one off, or infrequent occurance the for the junior employees, I would be tempted to keep it informal - maybe say to them 'we understand it is a weekend away from home. To be clear, we don't expect you to be working those two days, and if you would like to take a tour of the city, go to x attraction, we will cover the cost'.

Of course, if they are expected to work, or they are going to be catching up on work from their home office on the weekend, I think they should be compensated with overtime or time off in lieu.
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