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Travel and Expenses Policy

This policy provides information for anyone travelling on College business in the UK and Ireland who wishes to claim travel expenses from the RCOG. It was approved by the Finance & General Purposes Committee 20 May 2022.

1. Introduction

The College recognises that those helping us to achieve our mission to improve the health of women and girls may need to travel and claim expenses to deliver this valuable work. This policy details the guidelines that should be adhered to when booking travel within the UK and Ireland, and reclaiming expenses from the College. A separate Global Travel policy covers international travel.

2. Purpose and scope

This policy aims to:

  • Contribute to the delivery of the RCOG strategic goal: We will ensure our financial and environmental sustainability through delivery of all our objectives and contribute to a significantly reduced carbon footprint
  • When travel is necessary, provide clarity on expenses and allow flexibility wherever possible
  • Ensure charitable funds are used appropriately and expenses comply with the regulatory requirements of the HMRC and Charity law

This policy applies to anyone travelling on College business within the UK and Ireland. Externally funded projects may have separate rules on travel and expenses. This policy does not apply to staff in relation to expenses incurred when working from home or when travelling between home and the office.

3. Roles and responsibilities

Chief Executive has overall responsibility for safety, governance, and performance in relation to delivery of the RCOG strategic goals (including financial and environmental sustainability), and is accountable to the Board of Trustees.

Executive Director of Finance and Resources is accountable for this policy and its regular review and update, and for ensuring appropriate safety arrangements including travel insurance are in place.

RCOG Budget Holders are responsible for ensuring that travel and expenses are necessary and within budget.

RCOG Contacts including committee secretaries and meeting organisers will liaise with and advise non-RCOG staff travellers on behalf of the RCOG Budget Holder and Executive Directors where appropriate, including escalating and responding to any requests for bookings outside of policy.

Travellers are expected to adhere to these guidelines, take precautions where appropriate to ensure their own safety, and act with honesty and integrity when booking travel and making expense claims.

4. Principles

The following principles should be applied in regards to travel and expenses:

  • Contribute to environmental sustainability by only travelling when essential to do so - when all other means to achieve the work objective have been considered e.g. meeting digitally rather than face-to-face

When travel is necessary:

  • Safety is priority - travel safely, stay in suitable accommodation
  • Reduce the environmental impact - wherever possible, consider more environmentally friendly modes of travel e.g. rail over air (see appendix 1)
  • Be cost effective/maximise value - wherever possible, consider fewer individuals travelling, book at least 4 weeks in advance, consider alternative travel times and ticket options, consider travelling on a different day and staying overnight if the overall cost is cheaper, plan to achieve multiple objectives as part of one activity

Prior to booking travel or incurring any expenses, the relevant RCOG Budget Holder should be satisfied that the above principles have been met and that the cost is within budget.

5. Use of charitable funds

Travel and expenses funded by the College must comply with the requirements of both HMRC and Charity law and are therefore subject to external scrutiny. The College must also ensure that:

  • Funds are used appropriately with an adequate sense of responsibility to the charitable objects.
  • Expenses are accounted for fully and not deemed to be taxable income.
  • Expenses would pass a common sense test of ‘reasonableness’.
  • Expenses only apply to the individual travelling on behalf of the College

6. Expense types and policy

6.1 Rail travel

All UK rail travel can be booked by the traveller and reclaimed as an expense. The option to use the centralised travel agency remains available if preferred. Railcards held by travellers should be used wherever possible to take advantage of discounted fares.

Standard class should be booked for all train journeys under two hours at least four weeks in advance if possible.

Travellers may choose to fund the difference to upgrade to first-class but the College will only reimburse the value of the standard class fare. On some occasions a first-class ticket may be cheaper than standard class, in these cases first-class will be reimbursed subject to evidence being provided.

First-class will be permitted for train journeys of two hours and over, for fixed time and fixed train or flexible reservations only, booked at least four weeks in advance.

Where this isn’t possible, first-class will be permitted with approval of an Executive Director.

Express trains to and from London airports are permitted when booked as standard class.

For travel by Eurostar, the Global Travel Policy will apply.

6.2 Air travel

Due to its negative environmental impact, air travel in the UK and Ireland should generally not be used, unless this can be justified as the most suitable travel option based on the principles. When air travel is necessary:

Flights must be economy class and booked at least four weeks in advance.

Where this isn’t possible, approval will be required from an Executive Director.

All air travel within the UK and Ireland can be booked by the traveller and reclaimed as an expense. The option to use the centralised travel agency remains available if preferred.

All international travel should be booked via the College’s appointed travel agency, as per the Global Travel Policy.

6.3 Tube and bus travel

Where walking or cycling is not possible or appropriate, travel by tube or bus is the preferred method of travel, particularly for short journeys. Where London Underground or bus is required:

Oyster or contactless card payments should be used as these are the most cost effective. Transport for London can provide statements for registered Oyster or contactless cards which will serve as receipts on an expenses claim.

For those less familiar with travel in London, it can be more convenient to include tube travel as part of the rail ticket. If so, only the necessary tube travel between the mainline station and final destination should be included. Day travelcards will not be reimbursed.

6.4 Taxis

Though travel by tube or bus is expected, it may be necessary to use a taxi for short journeys in the following circumstances:

  • Where equipment or heavy baggage is being carried
  • When no public transport is available (for example, in the early morning or late at night)
  • Where the traveller has any mobility related issue that would prevent the individual from taking another form of transport
  • Where the most cost effective travel plans leave insufficient time to cross London by any other means

The use of taxis for long distance travel is not permitted, except where it is the most cost-effective mode of transport (for example, by eliminating the need for overnight accommodation). In such circumstances, approval from an Executive Director is required in advance.

6.5 Travel by car/motorcycle

Expenses in relation to travel by private car/motorcycle will only be reimbursed when it is demonstrably more efficient and economical than the use of public transport. When this is the case:

  • The private car mileage rate is 40p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter. This results in a zero-tax liability.
  • Reasonable parking expenses will be reimbursed. Parking fines will not be reimbursed.
  • No motoring related penalties or fines, including the congestion charge can be reimbursed.
  • Where a private car is used for College business, the owner is solely responsible for ensuring that the vehicle’s insurance allows such activity within permitted use. The College cannot reimburse for any additional cost in respect of 'permitted use' on private insurance cover.
  • The use of hire cars should only be made in exceptional circumstances and with approval of an Executive Director.

6.6 Accommodation

Hotels in London

The RCOG uses the Ibis London Blackfriars for College bookings. RCOG staff can book rooms on behalf of travellers and the hotel will invoice the College directly for single accommodation and breakfast charges. All other costs incurred, including double occupancy supplements must be settled by the individual concerned when checking out of the hotel.

The College has a strong preference that the Ibis London Blackfriars is used for all London stays. However if this is unavailable or unsuitable for another reason, the College will reimburse up to the equivalent rate for the same night’s stay at the Ibis London Blackfriars, or at a lower rate set by the RCOG Budget Holder for example when a group booking is being made.

Hotels outside of London

The cost of accommodation outside of London varies depending on the location and time of year. The College will reimburse for overnight stays outside of London to rates agreed with the RCOG Budget Holder/Contact in advance of booking.

6.7 Meals & subsistence

RCOG will reimburse the cost of subsistence as follows:

  • Breakfast to the maximum value of £10, if not included in the hotel bill, when a hotel stay has been required for the previous night.
  • Lunch to the maximum value of £10, when required to work away from Union Street (excluding working from home) from the period 12-2pm.
  • An evening meal to the maximum value of £25, if an overnight stay is required, or a College event or meeting has finished after 7pm, and no substantial food has been provided.

Service charges cannot be reimbursed unless included in the restaurant bill. No other gratuities can be claimed.

6.8 Hospitality

It is recognised that individuals may incur hospitality expenses in order to promote the College. As a charity, it is important to ensure these expenses are suitably moderate. Prior agreement for such expenditure must be obtained from an Executive Director.

6.9 Other expenses

If travellers wish to claim for items not mentioned in this policy, guidance should be sought from the RCOG Budget Holder/Contact in advance of the expense being incurred.

6.10 Changes and cancellations

Travellers are asked to carefully consider their travel itineraries before making bookings to avoid the need for changes. Flexible tickets/reservations may need to be considered if plans are subject to change as this may be more cost effective overall. The College will reimburse changes to bookings required as a result of the College changing its schedule. Costs incurred to amend bookings for personal reasons of those travelling will not be reimbursed unless there are extenuating circumstances and approved by an Executive Director.

6.11 Exceptions

For individuals who are required to attend the RCOG and stay overnight on a weekly basis, the College will reimburse higher rates for hotel accommodation and evening meals . Rates will be set by the CEO.

7. How to claim expenses

7.1 Expenses form

Expenses should be claimed using the College's expense claim form available on the RCOG website and submitted to the RCOG Budget Holder/Contact. Wherever possible, expenses should be submitted via email rather than by post.

7.2 Receipts

Itemised VAT receipts for expenditure must be attached to the form. In exceptional circumstances, where a receipt cannot be obtained, a written explanation must be provided and approved by the RCOG Budget Holder if less than £200, or by an Executive Director if more than £200. For clarity, VAT cannot be reclaimed on credit card receipts, only on receipts quoting suppliers’ VAT number.

In relation to hotel accommodation, the receipt must be either in the name of RCOG or the traveller’s name. Receipts in the name of other individuals/organisations cannot be reimbursed.

The College is unable to pay round sum amounts, unsupported by actual expenditure receipts, as this falls outside of the HMRC dispensation/rules.

7.3 Authorisation

All expense claims require authorisation prior to being passed to the Finance department for payment. Table 1 confirms who should authorise expenses. No individual can authorise their own expenses.

Table 1: Authorisation of Expenses

Expense incurred by

Authorisation by

Staff Member

Budget Holder

Executive Director

CEO

CEO

Trustee

Trustees (including Chair)

Another Trustee

President/Officers

Trustee

Council/Committees

Budget Holder

Other representatives

Budget Holder

Expense claims may be rejected if the principles and guidelines in this policy have not been followed without good reason. All travel should be booked at least four weeks in advance, wherever possible.

7.4 Payment of expenses

Expenses will be paid via bank transfer direct to the individual's bank account. The College will not reimburse expenses via any other means. The College aims to reimburse expenses within 30 days of receipt of a claim form.

7.5 Deadline to submit claims

All expense claims must be submitted within three months of the date they were incurred. Expenses submitted after this date will require approval from an Executive Director and may not be reimbursed. To assist with the College’s year-end accounting process, it is requested that expenses incurred in the last quarter of the College’s financial year (Apr-Jun) be submitted by the end of July.

7.6 RCOG credit card holders

For those with RCOG credit cards, expenditure will be authorised in accordance with this policy and the College’s credit card policy.