Common Pharma Company Travel Policies
The goals of an effective pharmaceutical company’s travel policy are to provide employees and contractors/vendors with clear guidelines about the types of allowable expenses and to adhere to industry regulations. While travel policies of pharma companies generally differ based on corporate policies, the following are some common threads that most share.
Most pharma companies require that travel arrangements be made through a designated travel agent/office. Non-employee travelers must include some specified travel authorization form (completed by an employee/sponsor) detailing their travel agreement. Reimbursable expenses are outlined and approved prior to any travel arrangements being made. Some pharma companies make all the reservations directly for air travel, ground transportation, and lodging. It is important to understand each individual corporate policy beforehand to ensure maximum approved expense reimbursement.
Air and Rail Travel
Across the board, reimbursable air travel applies to “economy class” only. Any upgrades to flight accommodations are at the expense of the traveler and not reimbursable by many (or any) pharma companies. Additionally, most require that travelers select the lowest possible fair available at the time of booking regardless of stops and layovers. Planning as far in advance as possible is highly recommended.
Travelers may use their own “frequent flyer” accounts to accumulate and redeem points, however it cannot be done at the expense of the pharma company.
Rail travel is also a reimbursable expense, but like air travel, it is for “economy class” reservations only. Any upgrades must be handled out-of-pocket. Rail travel is recommended, when it proves to be more cost-effective and time efficient than airline or car travel and it doesn’t add an excessive amount of travel time (generally no more than 1.5 hours).
Ground Transportation and Parking
Many pharma companies have preferred vendor agreements with car rental companies and airport parking lots. It is important to use the vendor(s) of choice unless another company offers a more affordable rate. Most policies are open to shopping around as long costs are kept under control. Travelers should rent a vehicle only when the cost to do so is more cost-effective than using taxis or other car services.
As with ground transportation, most pharma companies have preferred hotel programs in many cities across the world. With these programs in place, travelers seeking reimbursement are at time required to stay in these host hotels with the stipulation that they also select the single, standard room. Any upgrades are usually at the expense of the traveler and not considered reimbursable expenses, including suites, premium views, premium levels, etc. However, if the “customers rate” on the single, standard room is less expensive than the preferred hotel program rate, the expense is usually reimbursable.
Per diem meal individual meal reimbursement ranges from $50 – $100 a day across policies and many are based specifically related to locations/countries. All policies outline required details needed on receipts for reimbursement consideration, which include itemized food order, location, date, and time. Additionally, for business meal reimbursements, the names/roles of each customer or supplier taking part in the business meal must be submitted along with the receipt. Most policies outline exactly what constitutes a ‘business meal’ and what the limits are for meals with healthcare professional (HCPs) and government officials.
Without question, all pharma travel policies require itemized documentation for all expenses due to Healthcare Professional (HCP) industry accountability regulations. Many policies will outline specifically which travel items are reimbursable and which are not. To avoid making assumptions that may not pan out for your pocketbook, always read the policies thoroughly prior to making any arrangements or purchases.