Why you need a travel expense policy for your small business
As your small business expands and more of your employees are required to travel for business purposes, providing a comprehensive corporate travel and expense policy is increasingly important. Particularly since, as a small to medium-sized business, your funds and buying agency may be more limited than in larger corporations. A well-defined company travel and expense policy can help maximise employee travel compliance, cut down unnecessary spending by avoiding hidden costs and give you higher visibility of budget spending.
What is a travel expense policy?
A travel expense policy is a set of rules and guidelines for booking flights, hotel rooms, hire cars and rail that clearly defines what is considered a work-related expense for employee reimbursement. These rules are in place to make it easier for employees to book their corporate travel and manage business-related travel expenses.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all travel expense policy—and when creating yours, take into consideration what your business needs are, those of your employees, as well as the budget that your company has allocated for travel.
Why does your small business need a corporate travel and expense policy?
Travelling is something that’s often necessary for employees and making it as straightforward and clear as possible is very important. Your travel policies should be a combination of your company and employee needs. To prevent road warrior burnout, recognise employees’ expectations and be willing to provide flexible travel nuances like extended route lengths and adding personal travel time. Learn more about how a travel and expense policy impacts your overall company culture here.
Streamlining your process with a centralised booking tool and a clear and robust travel and expense policy can help save your employees time, effort and confusion, while providing your business with easier expense management. Centralised booking is a one-stop-shop for all your travel needs. Instead of looking at multiple travel providers and spending time trying to find the best rate, a corporate travel platform will show you options based on your budget and travel needs. In addition, the centralised booking tool will incorporate your travel policies throughout the booking experience.
If your business requires employees to travel for work, having a travel and expense policy allows you to clearly communicate to your employees the maximum spend allowed when booking flights and accommodation, and everything in between. Providing clear guidance can also help reduce grey areas that can lead to expensive mistakes, while also allowing your employees to book their own travel with confidence. Your business’ travel expense policy can help predict travel costs for the company and allows for higher real-time visibility of budget spending.
There are many variables to consider. The recommended options for car hire, flights and hotel rooms based on price and safety are always changing. Your approval settings need to be able to evolve with the changing economy and travel landscape. Here are a few basic requirements to consider:
- Price range of airline tickets based on destination
- Maximum cost for accommodation expenses per night
- Business class or first-class upgrade permissions
- Minimum number of days booked in advance
- Define distinct types of business purposes for travel
Benefits of implementing a travel and expense policy
Sets up employee expectations
Providing a clear guide for employees to follow - that outlines what expenses are covered and how the booking process works - reduces misunderstandings and frustration when reserving flights and accommodation or when submitting expense claims.
Keeps your small business audit-ready
Establishing a travel policy helps your organisation to align with any tax guidelines and stay compliant with tax regulation required by HMRC, keeping your company audit-ready.
Establish defined roles and responsibilities
Identifying who an employee can turn to for any questions or concerns helps to establish trust and confidence within your organisation and keeps an open line of communication. For example, if Human Resources will be handling all corporate travel, employees know that any questions can be directed to them.
Keep your company’s bottom line at the forefront
Since travel policies keep open visibility of spending in one centralised place, it allows those in charge of budgeting to manage costs and implement preventative measures that can help cut down on overspending.
Help prevent fraud
Mistakes happen, but automating expense claims can curb unintentional (or intentional) mistakes, such as submitting duplicate receipts. A good, clear travel expense policy can help avoid any confusion or grey areas that may lead to human error.
What you should include in a travel expense policy
While no travel policy will look exactly the same, there are a few things that an effective travel expense policy will include. Most importantly, remember that your policy should be dynamic and flexible, as it will have to be updated quite frequently. Ideally, travel policies should be reassessed on a yearly basis, if not more often. Change your policy based on business goals, budget, company size, etc. Below are other important must-haves to include.
Use clear and concise language that is easy to understand when drafting your policy. Don’t overcomplicate wording with corporate and legal lingo that may confuse your employees or leave grey areas.
Budget limits and preferred payment methods
Make sure you state clearly what the budget and maximum spend is for accommodation, flights, hire cars and rail. Any booking tool that you’d like your employees to use should be clearly stated, as well as specific payment methods (like credit cards) that employees should use.
What is a covered expense
Other things to consider as you create your policy is listing explicitly which business expenses are covered and which aren’t. For example, if business travel includes meeting with potential clients that require entertaining over dinner or drinks, it’s best to include it as a covered expense, since it directly affects the business. If employees have a per diem stipend for food, this is also something that should be clearly stated within the policy’s language. If you’re not sure what is typically covered, some examples include:
- Rail transportation
- Car hire
- Taxis and ride share expenses
- Conference registrations
- Mileage and petrol (if driving)
- Tips for meals and hotels
Instructions for reimbursement
Lastly, an important component that you should include is clear instructions on how employees should submit their expense claim. Everything should be spelled out clearly, including the time frame within which they should submit their expense claim, what documentation is needed (receipts or bank statements), how long they should expect to wait to get their money back and how the money will be returned to them—whether it’s a separate payment or added on to their next payroll cycle.
Egencia offers corporate travel solutions to small and medium-sized businesses
As a growing business, you should be invested in the right tools, processes and systems that promote a meaningful travel programme and seamless expense management experience. No matter what corner of the world your business takes you to, Egencia helps you manage your internal policies, travellers and expenses all in one comprehensive yet easy-to-use platform with 24/7 support.
Request a demo to learn more.