Managing Director, Ambition Hong Kong
Travel should not be at your expense
My job requires me to do a lot of travelling to meet clients and attend meetings. This entails many expenses, including hotels, taxis and meals, which I can only claim for after I return to Hong Kong. Recently some of my reimbursements have been over a month late after HR queried them. This often leaves me out of pocket for the month. Is there a tactful way I can speed up the process without appearing greedy?
Thank you for your question and I have to say that your experience is a familiar one in Hong Kong. Your frustrations are justified, as are your concerns at appearing greedy or ungrateful to your employers, although I am certain you can achieve a solution that suits your employers and yourself.
If the human resources department regularly needs to query your expenses, this presumably means there is a lack of clarity on what can be expensed.
This causes a delay in you being reimbursed, which means you are out of pocket for a period of time. This is unfair on you and leads to frustration, stress and quite possibly financial hardship. I would suggest you take the initiative and try to achieve a better understanding of what can and can’t be expensed and how and when you should be reimbursed.
Discuss with your line manager what expenses you can and can’t claim. Ideally, he or she can draw up some guidelines on where you can stay, how you can travel and to what value you can eat and drink. Explain you are having some challenges and just want to achieve some clarity and ideally be reimbursed promptly. Also, cover how you should ensure that you are not left out of pocket each month.
The company is asking you to travel on company business so it is only fair they underwrite that cost up front. The most effective way to achieve this is to either have a cash balance in advance each month, or in advance of each trip; or to operate a company credit card which you can use to pay for all significant items.
This might leave you with a small cash expenses claim form each month, but hopefully not one that would leave you significantly out of pocket or cause significant stress.
Both options are common practice, although the company will probably want a written agreement that you undertake to pay back any personal or unauthorised expenses if you leave the company.
The details of the conversation then need to be confirmed in writing or via email.
I hope this helps and good luck with your conversations.