The complete guide to corporate travel policies

5 MIN READ

Your guide to writing meal allowance policies for employees

When your employees travel for work, meal expenses are one of the most common costs. A good meal reimbursement policy is an important part of a business travel policy. It will save your business both time and money. And, at the end of the day, it will also ensure that employees work more effectively and, in turn, do better business.

In this guide, we’ll share why a meal allowance policy is so important and what it should cover.

What is a meal allowance policy? Why should I have one?

A meal allowance policy determines how much employees are allowed to spend when on business travel (also known as a meal stipend).

If your employees travel for business purposes, it’s important that they can refer to a meal allowance policy. A good meal allowance policy makes business travel easier and more comfortable. It also explains how employees can submit an expense report. This makes it easier for your finance department to track these business expenses correctly.

Keep in mind that many countries regulate meal allowances for corporate business travelers. Even when there’s no legal requirement, it makes sense to regulate your employees’ travel expenses.

What should a meal allowance policy include?

Every company is different, and we know yours is unique. This is why you should have your own meal allowance policy, based on your needs and preferences. However, these are some elements that all meal allowance policies share:

1.   Introduction

Here’s where you include the purpose of the meal allowance policy. Provide a clear definition of what is considered a travel meal and a travel meal allowance. What actual expenses are included?

2.   Allowance amounts

In this section,specify the amounts that employees are allowed to spend. These amounts can vary depending on the destination and the length of the trip . This is why you should specify a different reimbursement amount for each destination that employees usually visit. You should also specify a different allowance for different trip durations. A day of travel will be different than an overnight stay.

For some countries, it makes sense to establish a different allowable amount for different cities. If you still have doubts about allowance amounts, keep reading, we’ll share more tips in the next section.

3.   Payment method

Should employees pay using the company's credit card? When should they use their own credit card? Which payment method should the company use for reimbursement?

4.   What is not included

We recommend specifying what kind of expenses are not included in your allowance. This will help avoid any confusion. Room service and alcoholic beverages are some of the expenses that companies often don’t cover.

A special policy may apply for business meals, which is when business meetings take place during a meal. Who covers the cost of the meal in these cases? What is considered a business purpose? These things should be described in a business meal policy.

5.   Approval guidelines

If employees need to get approval before the expense is made, it’s important to clarify this and explain the process. You should also include the name of the person in charge of approvals. Is it done through a specific platform? Include the specifics to make it simpler.

6.   Expense reimbursement process

Be explicit about this process to ensure there’s good communication between employees and the finance department. Specify how the travel reimbursement should be requested.

Setting a deadline for the reimbursement request is important to avoid any issues. Be crystal clear about the documents that employees need to submit when requesting a refund. Make sure they understand the importance of itemized receipts. Do they need to include any other information in the expense report? State it here.

How to set per diem meal allowance rates when traveling for business

A lot of factors are at play when setting allowable amounts. Seniority, destination, and travel preferences are some of the most common. Some countries have specific regulations in place for per diem rates. This affects what classifies as meal expenses and how much of it can be reimbursed for tax purposes.

In Canada, the meal allowance is regulated by the CRA, with specific amounts for each meal according to province or territory. You should consider whether or not your company should apply the official reimbursement rate amounts or not. It may be that the company wants to allow a more flexible budget. In this case, businesses will have to pay taxes on the price difference.

Final tips

Once your meal allowance policy is ready to implement, make sure employees can access it. You can share it on the company’s intranet, send an email reminder, or mention it at the next company-wide event.

No matter how complete and comprehensive you’ve made it, there will always be questions. What if I’m vegan? What if I’m pregnant with twins and eating for three? You name it. Make sure to include the details of the contact person that employees can send their questions to.