Flying Coach: The Latest Employee Indignity?

As the economy takes a downturn, so too do employee travel allowances, reports Fortune Magazine in a recent article.

Rolfe Shellenberger, a senior consultant at travel consultancy Runzheimer International, notes that corporate travel budgets have been cut 25 percent to 50 percent in the past year. One of the first things to go is first class and business class airfare.

The cuts in amounts allowed for air travel as well as other setbacks may have a trickle-down effect. Many employees tend to fudge numbers on their travel reports, feeling the company owes them, according to Ronald Berenbeim of the Global Business Conduct Council. "It puts the company and the employee on a real collision course."

A few years ago, the Ethics Office Association performed a study on how pressure affects employees. Results of the study showed that nearly half (48 percent) of those who responded to the study questionnaire admitted that stress on the job had caused them to commit at least one unethical act. Such acts included cutting corners on quality control, deceiving customers, and abusing expense accounts.

One means of preventing employees from squeezing extra money out of their expense reports is to publish strict company rules as to how expenses are to be reported. A study performed last year by Runzheimer International found that half of all small businesses have no written travel policy. Where no policy exists, employees tend to take their cue from top management. If this is not desirable, company management should consider drawing up a policy by which employees should be expected to abide.

Sample topics that should be included in a company travel policy include:

  • Who is responsible for making travel arrangements
  • Travel with spouse or other invited guest
  • Business travel insurance
  • Providing receipts and other proof of expense
  • Travel expense approval policy
  • Special rules regarding international travel
  • Use of corporate credit cards for travel
  • Travel advance and reimbursement policy
  • Specific expenses that will be covered
  • Per Diem allowances

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