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Travel policy

This policy provides information for anyone travelling on College business who wishes to claim travel expenses from the RCOG. It was approved by the Board of Trustees on 14 September 2017.

RCOG travel and expenses guidelines

1.1 Background

This policy details the guidelines that must be adhered to when reclaiming expenses from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.

Travel and accommodation costs represent a significant annual expense to the College and hence must be carefully controlled.

Fellows, Members, members of Council, Trustees, members of boards & committees, agents and RCOG staff are expected to adhere to these guidelines and behave with honesty and integrity when making expense claims.

Please note that a separate travel and expenses policy exists for RCOG staff.

1.2 General principles

Travel and expenses funded by the College must comply with the requirements of both HMRC and Charity law. Beyond the regulatory framework, it is the will of Council that the College’s finite resources are spent prudently and never wastefully. There is therefore the need to ensure that:

  • funds are used appropriately with an adequate sense of responsibility to the funder and to the charitable objects
  • expenses must be accounted for fully in order to ensure that expenses are not deemed to be taxable income
  • expenses would pass a common sense test of ‘reasonableness’

The College continues to use a centralised travel booking service, which if used appropriately, can result in significant savings across the year. The College’s appointed travel agent is Diversity Travel. Their contact details are:

Email: juniper@diversitytravel.co.uk
Web: www.diversitytravel.co.uk
Tel: 0161 235 5411 - Mon-Fri, 8.45am-5.30pm (24-hour emergency helpline - 0161 300 8258)

All rail and air travel, excluding multi-destination flights, is to be booked online using Diversity Travel’s online booking tool. Please speak to your Committee Secretary/RCOG Contact for information on booking travel online.

Booking Deadline

All travel booked must be cost effective and provide the College with value for money. For this reason it is essential that all travel is booked, via Diversity, at a minimum, four weeks in advance of the meeting to avoid the excessive premium that late bookings attract. The RCOG is unable to cover the cost of travel that is not booked in this way. In exceptional circumstances, travel may be considered by the relevant Executive Director for journeys purchased within 4 weeks.

Exceptions

Where it is more cost effective to travel on an alternative day to the event, by spending a night in Rooms on Regent’s Park (formerly known as the Domus), this option should be considered (see 2.8 for booking details).

The travel and subsistence expenditure of spouses or other travelling partners cannot be reimbursed, unless the attendance of the spouse is an integral part of a specific representational event.  Should the attendance of a spouse be required by the College for delivery of the duties, an explanatory note from the President or CEO should be included with the expense documentation.

Examples of exceptions

  • Where individuals are able to spend time pre-booking their own travel, this may be the cheapest method of travel, however if alternative travel suppliers are used, a written quote from Diversity must accompany any claim for it to be reimbursed. The College is only able to reimburse travel expenses up to the amount quoted by Diversity. For frequent travellers for whom self-booking is consistently more cost effective for the College, an ongoing exemption may be requested from the Business Manager to the Deputy CEO, Rosie Dilley, rdilley@rcog.org.uk
  • To avoid the flat rate charge that Diversity levies on connecting trains to/from London airports, direct booking and submission of an expense claim is the preferred option.

1.3 Claims, receipts and credit cards

The College can only reimburse expenses if supported by the original receipt.  In exceptional circumstances, where a receipt cannot be obtained, a written explanation must be provided and approved by the CEO/Executive Director of Resources. For clarity, credit card vouchers cannot be accepted in the place of receipts.

Payment of travel costs using petty cash should be avoided wherever possible, but if used in an emergency, this should be authorised by the relevant Director.

In relation to hotel accommodation, please ensure that the receipt is either in the name of ‘RCOG’ or your own name. Receipts made out in the name of other organisations, such as NHS Trusts, cannot be reimbursed

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

Where expenses are incurred in foreign currencies, the amounts should be shown with the currency in question clearly marked. Reimbursement will be made in sterling. The rate of exchange will be the rate in force on the date of processing the claim, as calculated by the Finance Department.

Expenses should be claimed using the College’s expense claim form available on the College website and intranet. Expenses will be paid through credit transfer direct to the individual’s bank account. The College will not reimburse expenses via any other means. It is the College’s aim to reimburse expenses within 30 days of receipt of claim forms.

All expense claims must be submitted within three months of the date they were incurred. Expenses submitted after this date may not be reimbursed. Expenses for the last quarter of the previous calendar year must be claimed by the end of March of the subsequent year or the claim cannot be reimbursed.

Internal processing of expense claims should follow the following procedure:
  • An expense claim form must be completed for any expenditure claimed.
  • Bank details must be provided for BACS payments
  • Itemised VAT receipts for expenditure must be attached to the form and forwarded to the relevant expense reviewer as per 1.4
  • The form must be reviewed, coded and authorised for payment as per 1.4
  • The form should be forwarded to the Finance department for processing.

Purchases made on RCOG credit cards must be authorised and be in accordance with the guidelines for expenses as laid out in this document. They must not be used for personal expenditure. In the event of the accidental or exceptional use of an RCOG credit card for personal expenditure, the CEO should be informed as soon as possible.

The cardholder should attach the itemised VAT receipts for each transaction to the statement then forward to the authoriser as per the table 1.4 below. The authorised statement should be returned to finance within 2 weeks. A written explanation must accompany the statement if there are missing receipts.

1.4 Authorisation

All expense claims must be submitted for review and authorisation, prior to being passed to Finance for payment. The following table sets out the relevant individuals involved.

The role of the Reviewer is to ensure that all receipts are attached, that the claim is both arithmetically legitimate and generally compliant with this policy. If possible, the Reviewer should code the items. Any anomalies or uncertainties should be brought to the attention of the Authoriser by the Reviewer.

Expense incurred by Expense reviewed by Authorisation by
Staff member Other member of department Line Manager/Director
Director PA of relevant Executive Director Executive Director
Executive Director PA to Executive Director CEO
Officer/CEO PA to Officer/CEO President/Budget holder
President PA to President/CEO Chair of Audit & Risk
Council PA to President/CEO CEO
Trustees PA to President/CEO President
Committee Committee secretary Budget holder (or nominated individual (as per SFIs))

 

1.5 Advice and assistance

Any queries on particular claims should be directed to the Finance Department. Alternatively, written queries may be directed to the Chief Executive or Executive Director Resources. Where a claimant is uncertain if a claim is acceptable, assistance should be sought before the cost is incurred.

2. Expenses types and policy 

2.1 Rail travel

First class rail travel is permitted for journeys over 2 hours, only if purchased at least 4 weeks in advance of the day of travel for fixed time and fixed train reservations only. If the reservation is amended in any way that negates the discounted fixed price booking e.g. if an amendment is made within 4 weeks, standard class tickets only must be purchased or the additional cost met by the claimant not by the RCOG, unless the amendment is a result of alterations to meeting date/time imposed by the RCOG.

For all rail journeys with a scheduled journey time of 2 hours or less, travel must be arranged on a standard class basis, unless exceptional circumstances are agreed with RCOG in advance of booking.

For all rail journeys with a scheduled journey time of 1 hour or less, travel must be arranged on a standard class basis.

When travel allows, tickets must be collected from the departing station. Where this is not possible due to travel times or individual station facilities tickets may be posted to an identified address.

Claimants should ensure that they secure the best price possible by, for example, considering alternative times of travel, booking tickets well in advance of the day of travel and, where appropriate, taking advantage of Senior Railcards.

London Underground zones should not be added to the mainline rail ticket. Oyster card or contactless payments should be used for this part of the journey instead and the expense reclaimed from the College.

2.2 Air travel

British Isles

  • Air travel within the British Isles will be arranged on an economy basis only.

International

The following guidelines apply for international travel:

  • Flights of less than 3 hours: Economy flight
  • Flights of 3 to 6 hours: Economy plus or equivalent (if such class is unavailable, the flight must be economy)
  • Flights of 6 or more hours: Business class or equivalent.

Where possible, personal preference for carrier and time of travel will be accounted for, however due regard must be given to cost. Direct flights will always be the preferred choice but where material savings can be made, indirect flights should be taken.

RCOG has a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place for those travelling on College business and so no separate cover should be taken without prior consultation with the Director of Finance. Appropriate documentation regarding travel insurance should be provided to you by the College prior to travel.

The College can only reimburse excess baggage costs that result from carrying equipment on behalf of the RCOG.

The cost of receiving vaccinations required for overseas travel on behalf of the College can be reclaimed from the RCOG.

2.3 Changes to bookings

Individuals are required to carefully consider their travel itinerary before tickets are booked to avoid the need for changes. This is applicable to all modes of transport. Where a booking has to be cancelled, the individual should contact the College’s travel agent to inform them of this as soon as possible.

The College will only pay for travel booking changes when they arise as a result of the College changing a meeting time or date, or in exceptional circumstances such as extreme weather. For the sake of clarity, this does not include meetings changed at the request of the traveller. If tickets are changed for personal reasons, the claimant will be expected to pay these additional costs.

The permitted reason for the change must be set out in the claim or booking, to ensure that the College can demonstrate control over the use of its charitable funds. This must then be approved by the person responsible for approving that individual’s expenses.

2.4 Travel by car/mileage

Expenses in relation to travel by private car are refundable only when it is demonstrably more efficient and economical than the use of public transport.

No motoring related charges 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 current 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.

2.5 Hire car

The cost of hire cars may only be reimbursed where it is demonstrably more efficient and economical than the use of public transport.  It is recognised that in certain circumstances it may be appropriate to use a hire car. In this case, permission must be sought from the CEO in advance of a booking being made.

In cases where a hire car is used insurance must be arranged at the time of ordering. It is essential that all insurance requirements of the hire company are fully met.

Where vehicles are hired, expense claims should be for the hire charge and running costs, rather than based on the mileage rates and so must be accompanied by all relevant receipts.

2.6 Tube and bus

Travel by tube or bus is the preferred method of travel, particularly for short journeys including travel to airports.

Oyster card and contactless payments should be used, which are significantly cheaper than purchasing paper tickets.

2.7 Taxis

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

  • 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 claimant is heavily pregnant or has a temporary or permanent disability
  • Where the most economic travel choices leave insufficient time to cross London by any other means (maximum £20 fare)
The use of taxis for long distance travel is not permitted, except where travel by taxi is the most cost effective mode of transport (for example, by eliminating the need for overnight accommodation). In such circumstances, a written statement must accompany the claim, clarifying compliance, before any reimbursement can occur.

2.8 Accommodation

The College has eleven rooms for overnight use by those on official College business. These rooms should be booked by contacting the Guest Services Team on 0207 772 6234 or email rorp@rcog.org.uk.

Should accommodation in Rooms on Regent’s Park (formerly known as the Domus) not be available, the Operations Team will arrange alternative accommodation for those on College business. The College has negotiated a discounted rate with the Danubius Hotel, which 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.

If alternative accommodation is booked, the cost will be reimbursed to a maximum of:

  • Central London – £134 per night inclusive of breakfast
  • Elsewhere – £93 per night inclusive of breakfast

Receipts must be attached and addressed to ‘RCOG’ or the claimant.

2.9 Meals and subsistence

RCOG will reimburse the cost of a meal according to the policy below.

Breakfast to the maximum value of £10 per person will be reimbursed if not included in the hotel bill, when a hotel stay has been required for the previous night.

When required to work off site (excluding home working) over the period 12-2pm, lunch can be claimed to the maximum value of £10 if accompanied by relevant receipts.

If an overnight stay is required, or a College event or meeting has finished after 7pm, and no substantial food has been provided, an evening meal of no more than £25 will be reimbursed.

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

2.10 Hospitality

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

2.11 Sundry

The College will normally reimburse reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred by individual claimants on College business such as the cost of postage, phone calls and stationery, subject to a receipt being submitted with the claim.

If you are in doubt about what may be claimed, or wish to claim for items not mentioned in this expenses policy, please contact the Chief Executive’s Office or the finance team for advice prior to incurring the expense.

2.12 Summary of non-reclaimable expenditure

This list is intended to provide clarification of the key areas outwith the scope of legitimate expenses. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

  • Air travel tickets bought for class of travel above policy stated in 2.2
  • First class rail travel unless adhering to the policy stated in 2.1
  • Travel bookings amended for personal reasons
  • Late travel booking premium, where College scheduling allowed for early booking
  • Any travel costs more expensive than the RCOG travel agent’s rates
  • Car costs beyond mileage or hire/fuel and receipted parking fees.
  • Use of personal car where it would be more cost-effective to travel by rail/air
  • Use of hire car except in exceptional circumstances
  • Taxi without extenuating circumstances as stated in 2.7
  • Travel/accommodation for accompanying individual including upgrade to double/family room
  • Expenditure not related to College activities
  • Expenditure without appropriate original VAT itemised receipt
  • Receipts addressed to a third party
  • Claims for expenditure submitted more than 3 months after expense
  • Hospitality without prior authorisation of the Chief Executive
  • Gratuities and tips (other than those included in a restaurant bill)

Elsewhere on the site

Governance
The College’s governance structure, including Council, committees and senior management
A–Z of RCOG contacts
Contact details for key departments and services at the College