Handling expenses claims

Valerie Morton offers advice on how to check your staff's expenses

Valerie Morton
Valerie Morton

Q: I am being asked to check everyone's expenses thoroughly before signing them off, but I am worried my staff will think I don't trust them. How do I handle this?

You are right to be concerned: a sudden change can easily give the impression you are questioning people's honesty. You should start by making sure you fully understand and buy into the reasons why a good manager should always check expenses. Whether we are in a recession or not, you need to make sure your staff are spending wisely and within their authority.

Difficult as it is to imagine of anyone working for you, it is likely you will experience one or two cases of dishonesty in your time as a manager. Checking that mileage levels are about right and travel claims match with meetings, for example, is entirely appropriate.

On the positive side, expenses claims can be a useful tool for identifying staff who are working excessive hours or who need support managing their time more effectively. Look out for high mileage, a large number of overnight stays or claims arriving in batches rather than once a month.

If you are concerned about sustainability, you can use expenses claims to monitor whether you have the right balance between using cars and public transport.

It is not unheard of for staff to feel embarrassed about claiming expenses because they work for a charity, so checking their claims can also help to make sure they get what they are entitled to.

Assuming you are now convinced about the rationale, how do you get this across to your staff? First, talk to your fellow managers to make sure you have a consistent approach and no team feels it is being singled out. Second, why not raise the subject at a team meeting? If people understand the reasons and see that you are acting in their interests, they are more likely to be comfortable with the new regime. If you are confident enough to use your own expenses claims as examples, that will demonstrate your openness.

Finally, remember that you are doing them a favour. If they make an inappropriate claim in error, they may not be reimbursed, or there could be tax implications.

- Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant.

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