Whether you are writing an expense policy from scratch or optimising an existing one, having a well-thought-out policy document that is clear and memorable is a key component to any successful expense management programme.
In this article, we look at eight unique company expense policy examples, explain why we like them, and what type of business they suit.
What is a company expense policy?
Expense policies are documents that provide clear rules and guidelines describing what employees can and cannot purchase at work.
Some focus solely on costs related to travel and sustenance while others govern employee spending as a whole, from travel to advertising spend, and everything in between.
Employees generally view and agree with the policy when they are signing their work contracts.
What should go in an expense policy?
Expense policies vary depending on the company, but most policies include the following elements:
- A list of allowable expense categories
- Payment methods
- Record-keeping rules
- Reimbursement guidance
- Information about disputes
Every company expense policy is different
Your industry, cash flow, and company culture will influence your business expense policy. Some businesses have very specific policies and others simply offer basic guidelines as part of a culture of trust. It is up to you to think about how your policy should look, how money should be spent and what expense culture you want to create. ,
For a slightly more detailed understanding of what expense policies are, how to write one and how they can benefit your organisation, read our article about creating a business expense policy.
Expense policy examples
Now that we have covered the basics, it is time to look at eight distinct company expense policy examples.
We pull out snippets and explain why we think it’s good and when it might be appropriate to use each style.
Each example will have a link to the original so you can see it in full for yourself.
It has a comprehensive policy for its employees and tries to balance financial responsibility with the wellbeing of staff.
There is also a particular focus on ethics, as the policy is founded on two core principles:
- The value-for-money principle: “The Bank is a public body, accountable to Parliament and the public. We use the Bank’s resources responsibly to achieve the Bank’s work and mission, ensuring value for money, having regard to: efficiency and cost-effectiveness, wellbeing, environmental impact, and safety and security.”
- The integrity principle: “We should not be influenced by the prospect of personal advantage or gain. We must use the Bank’s resources responsibly for the public good, not to profit personally."
The policy also factors in employee wellbeing.
“Wellbeing is also important. Travelling long distances and being away from family and friends has a cost. The Bank wants staff to be able to perform at their best when travelling for work. The rules reflect this.”
The Bank of England example demonstrates that longer and more specific policies can be easy-to-understand, and ethical while showing care and consideration for employees.
Their comprehensive policy is especially useful for larger businesses with a lot of travel including hotels, rail and flights.
If you want to take employee trust to new heights then check out Netflix’s expense policy. It is famous for being only five words long.
“Act in Netflix’s best interests"
This incredibly simple policy is representative of Netflix’s unique focus on freedom and responsibility.
“We believe that people thrive on being trusted, on freedom, and on being able to make a difference. So we foster freedom and empowerment wherever we can."
Netflix believes that rules equate to rigidity and inadaptability, which will be detrimental further down the line. They also believe that great employees will naturally take responsibility without being asked.
If you want to foster an innovative company culture with an unusual expense policy approach, then you might want to take a leaf out of Netflix’s book.
The BBC is a great company expense policy example. It has a classic expense policy that includes everything you would expect to see whilst being easy to read.
“The overriding principle of this policy is that it is fair and reasonable, and you are reimbursed for expenditure incurred during the course of your duties.”
It also includes a section on what it expects from staff making travel arrangements, which demonstrates the BBC’s commitment to going green.
“The BBC’s Sustainability Strategy for the current charter commits us to smarter travel using responsible travel policies. Wherever possible, communication tools such as Skype, telepresence and video conferencing facilities should be used as an alternative to travelling.”
An industry-specific section for employees who work late nights and early mornings is also included.
“All LNEMT must be booked through BBC Travel & Delivery and declared as home to work or work to home, as appropriate. LNEMT is applicable where an individual’s working day starts or finishes before 6:30am (early morning) or after 22:45pm (late night).”
The thorough but accessible nature of the policy, coupled with its industry-specific sections and the environmental focus makes the BBC business expense policy an interesting and potentially inspiring read.
Basecamp, like Netflix, promotes a culture of trust. They do not have an expense policy in the traditional sense.
"Basecamp has no expense policy. We trust our employees to spend money wisely. If you’re booking a flight, you don’t need to buy the cheapest, 2-layover redeye; buy the convenient, well-priced seat. If you’re attending a conference on behalf of Basecamp, sure, Basecamp will buy your meals. Just try to stay away from caviar and champagne at dinner (okay, maybe once if you have a great day to celebrate)."
Instead, Basecamp has procedures that they expect employees to follow.
All staff have a Basecamp American Express card to use for any work-related expenses. They should keep receipts, and they must provide one for all expenses over $50. Employees should take a photo of their receipts and upload it to Basecamp’s expense management solution, Expensify.
Basecamp’s procedural approach to expenses is unique, and in many ways, it makes a lot of sense. It balances trust with clear and memorable guidance on what to do with your expenses.
Their approach is also forward-thinking because Basecamp can look at expenses in Expensify, while giving their employees a sense of freedom.
If you want to take an open-ended but less risky approach then you might want a procedure focused policy.
Like its name might suggest, Simplify has a simple company expense policy that is only three pages long.
It is clear what contractors can and cannot claim as a business expense.
“the only expense that can now be claimed periodically to be offset against your taxable pay is business mileage.”
It is not your standard policy, however, as it is written to contractors, not permanent employees. A lot of the content could be useful regardless of your industry.
Simplify’s expense policy clearly demonstrates that you need to factor in how your business operates when defining your expense categories.
“Expenses such as public transport, daily subsistence and accommodation may be claimed as per the receipted amount at the end of the financial year, either by submission of a P87 form directly to HMRC if the sum of incurred expenses is under £2,500; or by completion of a Self-Assessment tax return.”
It also shows that a policy can get the job done without being lengthy.
FedEx’s 2015 company policy might be out of date, but it is still worth a look. It takes a more prescriptive approach to expenses, that reads more like a rulebook.
To encourage employees to follow the rules, they make it clear that company policy breaches can result in termination on the first page.
“Any Team Member that does not adhere to this policy falsifies a report or attempts to obtain reimbursement for expenses not in compliance with this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”
FedEx is also very stringent when it comes to reporting expenses and specific about how things should be done.
“All travel-related and business expenses should be submitted on a weekly or per-trip basis. All business travel including en route changes, airline tickets, rail tickets, hotels and rental cars are required to be booked through FXO’s authorized travel agency, Global Travel, and/or its online tool, Cliqbook.”
If you are trying to limit spending, then you might be inspired by FedEx’s exhaustive company policy.
Network Rail’s company expense policy is 31 pages long and incredibly comprehensive. We do not have permission to copy sections from it, but it's still well worth a look.
The policy is distinct, including clear definitions and uses tables to organise information. It is exceptionally easy to understand and includes several nice touches like a table that asks employees about their expenses and if they are necessary.
Network Rail states in the policy that expenses are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, reminding employees to think twice before incurring the expense.
If you are looking for a policy that combines detail with immense accessibility, then you need to check this out.
This policy is specific to volunteers, but it can easily be expanded to suit the needs of different organisations including businesses, charities or non-profit organisations.
The British Heart Foundation charity expense policy example is eight pages long and relatively concise. It focuses on ensuring that volunteers are not of pocket while keeping volunteer expenses to a minimum so that funding can be spent pursuing charity objectives.
“The BHF greatly appreciates and values the time given by volunteers to help support our work and we are committed to ensuring that no volunteer is out of pocket because of expenses incurred whilst carrying out their role within the BHF.”
“The BHF needs to ensure that any expenditure is relevant to our charitable objectives and can be fully justified, therefore all expenses should be reasonable and kept to a minimum.”
That said, the policy allows for some flexibility if it benefits the British Heart Foundation and its charitable objectives.
“The BHF works with people who volunteer their time to showcase the amazing work it does being case studies or ambassadors for the organisation. This can include heart patients, celebrities and medical researchers.“
“Every effort must be made to keep expenses payments to a minimum and to adhere to this policy, however there will be situations where it would not be appropriate and could potentially jeopardise the opportunity for the BHF to benefit from this exposure or endorsement the volunteer or supporter can give to it."
Ultimately, the British Heart Foundation expenses policy is clear, reasonable and focuses on minimising unnecessary expenditure. It is a great policy to read if you are creating a charity expense policy or looking for inspiration from different industries.
Writing your expense policy
Now that you have looked at some company expense policy examples, you are probably thinking about your next steps.
To help you develop a great policy that does everything you need while representing your business culture, check out these fantastic easy-to-follow expense policy templates:
- Workable offer a simple expense template, that covers all the basics and is written in plain English
- CIPD offer a basic expense policy template that you can download and edit for free