Without a doubt, you heard about the 20 March ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano that caused chaos to business travelers across the globe. As you saw on the news or perhaps experienced yourself, numerous flights were canceled, European airspace was closed for days on end and business travelers had to seek alternative ways of finding their way home. Just when it appeared everything was getting back to normal, another eruption meant business travelers were faced with the same issue all over again.
Whilst travel seems to be gaining some stability again, the fallout from the crisis will cause financial disruption for businesses for months to come. When employees who were stranded file expense claims, the real cost for businesses will become painfully apparent. Figures from ACTE show that 29 percent of travel buyers did not have a specific program and policy in place to deal with this type of crisis.
What about the employee who bought an extra couple of shirts because he ran out of clean ones? Or the employee stranded abroad after a weekend on vacation, who had to rent a car to get to a local office to work. Who bears these expenses? Where does a company draw the line? Businesses will be faced with tough decisions about who gets reimbursed, and where the money is going to come from.
It is imperative that businesses have a fair and explicit expense policy for these kinds of events to ensure that employees know exactly what they can and cannot expense. Visibility and transparency mean that when a natural disaster that disrupts business travel happens again – and you can be sure it will – employees have a clear blueprint for how their company expects them to behave. The ash cloud is an important lesson for all of us. What is your organization doing to assure your expense policy is tailored towards natural disasters like an erupting volcano? Now that it appears the eruptions are over, how is your organization handling the expenses?