Business Travel Compliance: Tips for Smooth Employee Journeys

By Kellie Rondon on Jan 25, 2024
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Whether your business model revolves around travel or you’re sending an employee on a trip for the first time, it’s important to understand business travel compliance and employee rights. From properly compensating employees for travel hours to taking care to prevent foreseeable harm, wrapping your arms around business travel compliance considerations can seem like a full-time job.

Employee travel doesn’t have to be a compliance landmine when you have HR experts on your side. In this article, I’ll walk you through the basics of some of the most important business travel compliance topics to familiarize yourself with. I’ll also show you where to turn for more information about how these and other considerations apply to your business’ unique circumstances. Here's a look at the five most critical things to know. 

Understanding Your 'Duty of Care' Responsibilities in Business Travel

Business travel laws dictate that you have a duty of care to your traveling employees. “Duty of care” is a legal term that refers to the broad set of responsibilities and obligations the law charges to employers—obligations that revolve around ensuring workers’ safety. Business travel laws vary from state to state, but this basic concept underlies negligence suits everywhere. 

The duty of care a business owes to its traveling employees will look different depending on each situation’s unique facts and circumstances. But broadly speaking, your organization should take reasonable care to avoid any foreseeable harm befalling an employee while they are working for you—whether in their normal workplace or on a travel assignment. This can include the basics, like guaranteeing that your team members have sufficient rest periods between trips, to more nuanced considerations, like ensuring that they won’t have to travel in unsafe conditions. 

Even the most well-intentioned employers struggle to understand what might constitute “foreseeable” harm. It always helps to speak with experienced employee safety experts to help manage your business’ risk. 

travel risk management

Depending on your state, employee travel reimbursement law can vary slightly. For example, New York State requires employers to reimburse their employees within 30 days of the reimbursement becoming due. This generally means within 30 days from when the employee submits their expenses for reimbursement, with all necessary documentation, and not 30 days from when the expense was originally made. Not doing so can earn employers a misdemeanor. Several other states also maintain unique employee reimbursement laws, including Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota. 

Of course, the IRS has a complex framework for when business travel deductions are available for employees traveling away from their main place of work or “tax home” for business reasons. Deductible travel expenses include lodging and meals, business calls, transportation, using a personal car for business, and more. Travel expenses for conventions may even be deductible if the worker’s attendance benefits your organization. No matter where you are in the country, making sure that you’re complying with reimbursement laws (especially tax laws) is a must. 

RELATED: 5 Steps to a Comprehensive & Clear Business Travel Policy >> 

Ensuring FLSA Compliance for Nonexempt Employees During Business Travel

In general, an FLSA-nonexempt employee is required to be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of the standard 40-hour workweek. When these employees travel overnight for business, employers need to understand the nuances of which activities are compensable under the law. 

Any type of travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight constitutes “travel away from home.” If an employee’s typical workday spans, for example, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, they must be compensated for hours spent traveling during that 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. window. The typical workday time frame applies even to weekend days, so, if your employee travels between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on a Saturday, you’ll need to count that time as “hours worked.” 

Calculating compensable hours during business travel is one of the more counter-intuitive HR topics businesses must contend with, but compliance is crucial. 

employee travel overtime pay

Managing the Complexities of Workers’ Comp for Employees During Business Travel

When employees are traveling, workers’ compensation laws still apply. If an employee traveling for work is injured while taking transportation or even while staying in a hotel, their claim could be covered—depending on the circumstances. 

If your organization has employees working in another state on a temporary basis, you may need to purchase extraterritorial insurance or “other states coverage” to cover them. This is more likely to be the case if the employee’s “base state” doesn’t maintain a workers’ compensation reciprocity agreement with the employee’s “visiting state.” 

Whether workers’ compensation extends to cover costs related to an employee’s injury while traveling for work is a complicated topic, and the ultimate determination typically involves a very fact-intensive analysis. If you know you’ll need to send employees on business trips, you should make sure you have an understanding of your current workers’ compensation policies, the associated risks, and your exposure. To learn more from our workers’ compensation and employee safety experts

RELATED: 5 Steps to a Comprehensive & Clear Business Travel Policy >> 

Streamlining Business Travel Compliance with Expert PEO Support

You don’t have to handle business travel compliance on your own. Business travel compliance is one of the most complicated HR topics a small to mid-sized business will face. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to handle employee travel reimbursement laws, business travel laws or business travel compliance alone. 

Working with a certified PEO like Axcet HR Solutions will help ensure your employees are paid correctly, that travel risks are managed, and that your business stays in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Wondering if outsourcing these human resources tasks (and other responsibilities) is the right call for you? Schedule a consultation today to learn more. 

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Written by Kellie Rondon

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