Travel policy : all you need to know
Business travel around the world came to a halt in 2020 as COVID-19 took hold. It has taken years for the travel industry and business in general to recover. The ever-changing nature of COVID-related requirements, not to mention administrative changes due to Brexit, have all meant that a standard business trip can become a bureaucratic minefield.
Compliance with guidance from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on travel is essential. As the world opens up again, it is more important than ever for your company to have a business travel policy covering every business trip your employees take and ensuring you have insurance for all eventualities. We have provided an overview of how to create a travel policy. How to check expenses, insurance, travel advice and much more are covered.
What does your business need from your travel policy?
Business trips can represent a significant proportion of your employees’ time and your company’s expenses. Particularly in the wake of COVID, a piecemeal approach to business travel can drain resources. An inefficient policy, or one that doesn’t cover every trip your employees make, can be a significant expense for your company and may even lead to increased insurance costs in the event of something going wrong. A well-drafted company travel policy that provides an overview of the cover you need can provide benefits for your company and your employees alike. A travel policy can act as insurance against things going wrong. It involves a certain level of organisation, but it is worth it.
Find out your existing policies
Before drafting a new company travel policy, it is important to find out what your existing policies and procedures cover and to define your business travel needs and insurance requirements. COVID changed everyone’s attitude toward business trips and short holidays. A trip which was seen in the past as essential is now, in the post-COVID world, just as likely to take place by video or telephone. That said, international, national and local business travel remains a key feature of modern business and it is important to bear this in mind when taking an overview of your needs.
Get feedbacks from your stakeholders within the company
Drafting a policy can be expensive, so you need to make sure it is done correctly. Set aside time to review your company’s current approach to travel and its travel insurance needs. Discuss these issues with key stakeholders within the company, such as senior management and the administrative employee who is responsible for making travel bookings. This is a window of opportunity to take an overview, involve every employee in the company, offer reassurance to your staff, and ensure that employees have genuine ownership from the onset. Make sure to involve frequent travellers, as well as a representative sample of male and female employees, pay grades, and HR.
Define key objectives
Once you have feedback from your employees, you need to set out the key objectives of your company travel policy. What needs do you want it to meet? Perhaps employees have told you they don’t know what travel costs they can claim or what forms of transport they can book. Do they need additional insurance for their personal belongings? Can they book premium class travel, or should they always book economy for their trip? What happens in the event of a medical emergency while they are away? Who should they turn to for advice if there is a cancellation which affects their travel plans? Can they combine business and personal travel? Should they take advantage of a special offer to stay longer? Should they book train tickets or take their personal car? If they are asking these kinds of questions, your new company policy should strive to make it easy for employees to find what they need.
Maybe some members of staff are working from home due to COVID or other medical reasons and want to know about claiming back travel expenses to and from the office? What insurance do they need at home for their company equipment? What conditions can you offer them to ensure their travel needs are covered while they are working from home?
Or perhaps an administrative employee has complained about the conditions they need to meet when planning a business trip or the accounting team is concerned about excess charges relating to insurance claims? In that case, you will need to streamline your policies and procedures.
You might have identified loopholes in your existing policies and procedures that are causing unnecessary expenses. Addressing them in the new company policy will lead to reduced costs for the company.
Perhaps some of your employees have voiced concerns over their safety when travelling alone, if there is a flight cancellation, or what to do if they need medical treatment while away from home? You will need to take these concerns into consideration and ensure that your employees feel safe when travelling.
Hitting the right tone
Company travel policies, like any other business policy, are only effective if they are actually applied by your employees. When it comes to drafting the policy, it’s important to get the tone right and to provide advice that is reassuring and covers all the concerns raised by your employees. Talk directly to your employees in clear, simple language, address their needs, and make sure the policy is accessible. Consider the format you are going to use (intranet, hard copy, posters, leaflets?) as this can also help generate ownership.
What is covered by good business travel policies?
What issues should your business travel policy cover? Travel expenses, travel insurance, medical treatment while abroad, personal insurance while out of the workplace, employees travelling while carrying sums of money or important documents? A good company travel policy will need to cover these issues and much more. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key issues that you should cover.
This is where you inform your employees how to make a booking. If a senior manager feels the need to attend a conference, what kind of approval do they need before confirming their attendance? Do they book travel themselves using their own money or does a travel manager coordinate all booking? If they are travelling abroad, do they need separate insurance cover? What other conditions do they need to meet? If you have travel reservation software, what icon represents an approved business expense? What about greener alternatives to standard transport? Should greener alternatives and carbon offsetting be considered? Is there a check and balance system to make sure all travel is being booked in the same way?
The aim is to be as clear as possible about what expenses can be claimed as business expenses. Your employees should have no doubt as to if they should take a bus, plane or train, or if they can eat in that five-star restaurant. If they spill wine on a new suit during a business dinner, can they claim back the dry-cleaning? If their suitcase gets stolen during their trip, can they claim on the company insurance? Can they take a taxi to their destination if public transport is also available? If they buy a newspaper, can they file a claim for expenses?
Travel expenses raise lots of questions, but usually, a good dose of common sense can help answer them. HMRC guidance on travel that is “wholly and exclusively” for the purposes of business can point you in the right direction. Usually, only essential expenses and “reasonable” meal and hotel allowances are approved.
Your company policy will probably want to include guidelines to the effect that cost-effective (or environmentally friendly) alternatives should be preferred, as long as they remain within a reasonable level of convenience and comfort.
Submitting claims and supporting documentation
This part of the company travel policy should clarify exactly how an employee should file a business travel and expenses claim. Is there a timeframe within which travel claims must be filed, for example within a month of travel? Can they be filled in online, or do you need a hard copy? What supporting documentation is required?
The best supporting documentation is as comprehensive as possible. Receipts and tickets, including dates, times, and the reasons for travel or for the expenses incurred are all required. There are various ways of doing this, not all of which involve collecting scraps of paper and scribbled receipts. A wide range of mobile apps now makes the task of filing expense claims much easier.
Where to get help
In this part of the policy, make sure that employees know who to contact if they need help. A dedicated HR employee, for example, or travel manager if you have one. But what if an employee encounters a problem (illness, theft, breakdown, etc) and needs help during a business trip outside working hours? Make sure you have an out-of-hours contact and backup for emergencies.
Reviewing your business travel policy
A good policy evolves and adapts to the changing business environment. You need to regularly review your company travel policy, seek feedback from users, assess their needs, and adjust to new developments. Perhaps you are considering installing electric vehicle charging points in the company car park, or investing in a cycle-to-work scheme for local employees? Think about the implications for your travel policy and amend it appropriately.
Creating a comprehensive, well-drafted travel policy that involves employees and covers a wide range of business travel-related issues is essential in the modern business world. Mooncard can help streamline some of the more complex aspects of planning, tracking and claiming travel expenses and help you to draft a relevant, efficient policy. Get in touch for more information on Mooncard corporate cards and for an obligation-free demo of how we can help!