Online payment‘Tis the season for turkey, garland, football and…travel? Well, of course. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, millions of people will be traveling for the holidays. And the same is true for the business world, holiday season or not.

With any type of travel, whether for business or pleasure, there are associated costs. Plane tickets, hotels, rental cars, food—the list can go on and on. And while associated costs may mirror one another for both business and personal travels, one area differs drastically—who is footing the bill.

Here me out: Unless you’ve just received a very generous, all-inclusive vacation package as a gift, most people have to pay for their personal travels upfront and out of their own pockets.

Yet, in many instances, when a worker is required to travel for business, he or she—not the employer—must foot the bill upfront and then wait to be reimbursed by his or her employer. This is especially true for workers who don’t frequently travel and/or don’t have set spending accounts at their disposal.

So, for a personal trip I must use my own funds and for a work-related trip I must also pay out of pocket. You may be thinking, Well you’ll get the money back once you’re reimbursed, but this “wait period” is precisely my point of this article.

When it comes to requiring employees to travel, should employers foot the bill upfront? Should a worker be required to use his/her funds to cover a business trip and then wait for his/her company to reimburse the individual? Or if a company wants its worker to travel, should it set aside funds to cover all expenses upfront?

These questions came about after a discussion with a family member who recently had a required multi-city business trip approaching. She was required to fly into one city for a meeting, drive two hours to another city for a meeting, drive one more hour to a third city for a final meeting and then fly home. Her company required her to cover all expenses (including the rental car) and it would reimburse her afterward. Between gas, food, hotels and flights, it’s obvious to see that this wasn’t going to be an inexpensive trip. But, should workers have to use their personal money now even if it’s going to be returned later?

A study showed that 66 percent of U.S. business travelers have extended a business trip for a personal vacation and many employees required to travel for work treat their business trips like “mini vacations.”

Even if this is the case—a worker using business trips for his/her pleasure as well—does it mean it’s justified for a company to require its workers to use their personal money to fund a work trip?

Think about it: Many Americans are barely holding on in these tough economic times with a vast majority freelancing, working part-time and taking on extra jobs just to make ends meet. It may be a huge inconvenience—monetarily—for a worker to have to give up a chunk of his/her funds to cover a business trip, especially if the trip was thrown at him/her suddenly and/or the required travel is around an already busy and monetarily draining season like the upcoming holidays. Now the worker has sacrificed his/her personal funds for the trip—money their household(s) most assuredly needs—and has to wait for HR to reimburse them. And we all know how quick HR can be when it comes to reimbursement.

I’m not sure if companies consider a worker’s financial state—and the fact that they don’t even know what their workers’ financial states are—when they say, “Hey, you need to cover XYZ travelling expenses and we’ll pay you back.” What if a worker simply doesn’t have enough money to cover the required trip? Or really cannot wait for X amount of days or weeks to be reimbursed? Although companies can tell workers “I owe you” bills and life expenses don’t understand the phrase.

Is requiring an employee to cover business travel expenses and then wait to be reimbursed a good business practice? Why or why not? Share your business travel experiences below!

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