By Molly Wood, SPHR, MAOL
Senior HR Consultant
Businesses are open, people are going on cruises, shoot – you may not even have to wear a mask on an airplane in the next couple months! As COVID restrictions lighten and more people are fully vaccinated, your business may be ready to reinstate employee travel.
For the most part, business travel regulations are the same as they were pre-pandemic, but with the significant emergence of remote work, there are some areas to consider.
Travel policies are relatively easy to manage for exempt employees. Since they are paid their salary regardless of hours worked, there is no need to distinguish travel time vs. work time or worry about client dinners and other extra-curricular, but business-related, activities.
Employers do need to decide if they will reimburse for meals or provide per diem funding, and if they choose per diem, make sure they use correct per diem rates for the travel location if they are government contractors. Even companies that are not government contractors may want to review per diem rates to ensure they are being reasonable in their allocations.
Mileage reimbursement might be a consideration as well. If an employee is regularly working from home, then all the mileage to go from home to the airport or other destination would be reimbursed. If an employee regularly works from an office, the distance from home to the office would be considered the commute and that mileage could be deducted from home to airport mileage.
Travel time for non-exempt employees gets a lot more complicated. Organizations need to decide if they want to have a different rate of pay for travel time, and if so, they need to incorporate different rates of pay into overtime calculations. Any difference between travel time and regular rate of pay must be communicated to the affected employee prior to travel commencing.
For overnight travel, time spent driving or flying, traveling to and from the out-of-town event and waiting to purchase tickets, check baggage and board are considered compensable hours worked. However, time spent sleeping or engaging in personal pursuits not connected with traveling is not paid time.
Another item to be aware of is how Workers Compensation comes into play when an employee is traveling. Injuries and illnesses that occur while an employee is on travel status are work-related if, at the time of the injury or illness, the employee was engaged in work activities “in the interest of the employer.” Examples of such activities include travel to and from customer contacts, conducting job tasks, and entertaining or being entertained to transact, discuss, or promote business (work-related entertainment includes only entertainment activities being engaged in at the direction of the employer).
It’s important for businesses to have a documented policy that address these issues and others specific to travel. If you need help drafting a travel policy, SDEA is here with you. Call us whenever you need us. 858-505-0024.