Instituting a travel policy for your business will allow you to clearly define what is — and what is not — an acceptable travel expense. It will also allow you to manage your costs.
Should there be questions or discrepancies about an employee’s expense report, you’ll be able to use the written policy as validation for your decision to accept or deny payment of a given expense.
Creating a travel policy in line with your business’s travel budget will help ensure fiscal responsibility on the part of your employees. Such a policy will also make it easier to monitor your overall travel expenses, and help you determine if the budget you’ve allotted for travel should be reviewed and/or revised.
Your travel policy should:
- include all typical business trip expenses such as food, lodging, transportation, and entertainment
- be carefully reviewed by your legal advisor before you print and distribute it
- clearly outline what is, and is not, considered an acceptable travel expense
- include specific instructions for filing expense reports
- identify who expense reports should be sent to
- explain who will approve expense reports
- provide a deadline for submitting expense reports
- be distributed to, and signed by, all new hires
- allow for unanticipated situations such as a flight cancelled due to inclement weather
- be reviewed annually and updated as necessary to cover rising travel costs
- identify specific travel agents, hotels, rental car companies, or any other travel vendors with whom you’ve set up an account
It is a good idea to hold a meeting every several months with your most frequent travelers to determine whether there are other issues arising during travel that aren’t covered in the written policy. Such feedback demonstrates your willingness to review, and even change, aspects of the policy to meet your employees’ practical needs. Look for familiar themes and common concerns during these meetings.
Also consider including non-expense related materials in your travel policy. For example, travel and conduct expectations are becoming areas of greater concern as many companies become more informal. How your employees conduct themselves while traveling reflects on your business. Therefore, provide some basic do’s and dont’s in writing.
Practical concerns should also be addressed, including security procedures, and the need to arrive early and have adequate personal identification readily available at airports. And while they aren’t a necessary part of a policy, commonsense travel safety and security reminders are also useful to include.
For more information on this topic, be sure to read Developing a Travel Policy.