By Katrina Sullivan
Not everyone enjoys commuting to work in the mornings, but for some employees, travelling for work is an inescapable part of their job. We’re not just talking about people like airline attendants or taxi drivers, for whom travelling is the very essence of their role, but also employees such as salespeople who are required to attend face-to-face meetings, area managers who visit numerous stores or sites, and vets or doctors who make house calls.
If you have employees who are required to travel away from their primary place of employment for work-related purposes, you must be suitably compensating them for such work.
In this article, we explain what travelling for work entails and the importance of getting expenses, reimbursements, and allowances right every time. So, let’s get into it.
If you have employees who are travelling for work as a required part of their duties, it’s important that you clearly outline how the travel expenses will be paid. Some examples include:
- the business provides the employee with the property they can use for work-related travel purposes such as a company car, a fuel card, or vouchers;
- the business bears the travel expenses by booking and paying for transport, accommodation, and meals in advance;
- the employee bears the travel expenses and is later reimbursed that amount by the business; or
- the employee is provided with a travel allowance or lump sum payment to cover the anticipated costs of travel.
Whichever method you choose for your business, it needs to be communicated to your employees. If an employee is allocated company property like a motor vehicle or fuel card, you should also think about whether the employee is permitted to utilise it for reasonable personal use or whether it should be strictly confined to authorised business use.
If you’re required to reimburse your employees under their relevant award or enterprise agreement or work on a system of reimbursement of expenses incurred by an employee while undertaking work for the business, read on! You need to make sure you advise your employees to obtain and keep receipts for all expenses which should be produced to the business before the reimbursement will be made.
We also recommend that you implement a policy outlining what’ll be considered reasonable and unreasonable expenses or requiring that expenses be approved in advance by the business if you prefer.
Nearly every modern award, and some enterprise agreements, contain some form of vehicle or travelling allowance intended to compensate employees for the inconvenience of out-of-pocket expenses of travel. This is commonly expressed as a per-kilometre rate so you should require such employees to keep a detailed logbook of their work-related travel including recording the odometer at the start and end of each journey to ensure you’re paying them the correct allowance.
For salaried employees, you may wish to incorporate a vehicle allowance into the annualised salary amount. This’ll require an estimate of the kilometres the employee is expected to travel during the year, which may not always be easy to calculate. If in doubt, round up and round up again – the last thing you want is an underpayment claim when we’re only talking about a matter of cents per kilometre travelled.
Employees should usually be paid for time spent travelling for work-related purposes, as it’s part of their duties as much as answering phones, writing reports, or providing customer service.
Time spent getting to and from work doesn’t normally need to be compensated; the costs of this travel are borne by the employees themselves. There are exceptions to this under some awards or enterprise agreements, such as if the employee is being temporarily relocated from their primary place of work. Check the relevant award or agreement before deciding whether to pay for such travel.
Keeping track of travel expenses, reimbursements, and allowances can be tricky, but you can’t afford to get it wrong. For more information about how to manage travel for work, please reach out to our experts via our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.
Katrina Sullivan is a Workplace Relations Advisor at FCB and HR Assured. She provides specialised advice and support to multiple clients regarding a wide range of workplace and employment matters. She is particularly interested in the areas of industrial law policy development and employment dispute management.