Question: Some of our staff members are traveling for a conference. Our expense policy requires employees to share a hotel room, but some of the staffers are insisting on their own room. Is our policy valid?
Answer: There are no laws that specifically prohibit a company from having such a policy. The assumption is that most employers who implement such a policy do so for budgetary reasons. However, your policy should outline the specifics of business travel in your company. Further, it should be included in your handbook and should be clearly communicated to employees before travel. In addition, the policy should apply uniformly to all employee travel, and not just to certain departments.
Your policy and practices should, however, account for those employees with special needs that may require them to have their own room. It may be necessary to accommodate such requests if they are related to issues such as medical privacy and/or religious reasons.
There is no one right way to address this issue, so it will depend on your organization’s culture and travel policies. While budget is likely the main factor for your shared-room policy, it should not be the only consideration. Such a practice could potentially impact morale. As an alternative, many employers will use more affordable hotels and limit other travel expenses to enable employees to lodge separately. Some travel policies set a dollar amount limit for hotel stays and allow employees choosing to stay in more expensive rooms to pay the difference above the company reimbursement rate.
If this is a current situation, talk to those employees about their concerns and advise that you will consider alternate arrangements for a reasonable request based on the facts and circumstances. If your policy has not been accurately communicated, consider requesting that employees share rooms, but allow those who do not wish to share to book their own rooms. In addition, take the opportunity now to review your travel policies and to ensure that they accurately communicate the following:
- How to manage overnight travel, such as where and how employees will be expected to stay (single or shared rooms, one specific hotel, etc.).
- What expenses will be reimbursed (such as transportation to/from meeting or event space, meals, drinks, etc.).
- Policies for reimbursement of airfare, car, or gas expenses.
- Limits on expenses, additional travel days, and other circumstances.