Everything you need to know about business travel
Learn all about the differences between business travel and business trip, the different stages of a trip, what the law and the labour code say, and the rights and obligations of the employer or traveller. Explore and compare the pros and cons of travel services, a travel manager, a business travel agency, and an online booking tool?
What are the differences between business trips and business travel?
Obviously, in both situations, since the employee is travelling on behalf of the company, some of the incurred expenses (travel expenses, lodging expenses, expense reports, etc.) will be the employer’s responsibility.
Business travel definition
“Business travel” corresponds to any travel made for business purposes. For example, when a salesperson goes to meet a client, he will be travelling for work purposes and therefore qualify as a business traveller.
Business trip definition
We often use another synonym for business travel in our everyday language: business trip. A business trip is carried out within the framework of one’s work; it counts therefore as business travel, with the only difference being the duration: we talk about a business trip only when it lasts for several days.
Stages in a business travel
The first step is to plan your trip accordingly:
- Will the trip last one or more days?
- Is this a good opportunity to meet other customers or partners along the way?
- Should you use a company car or book a train or plane?
Planning will be quite natural most of the time, especially for everyday business travelling. However, it becomes more laborious once we move on to international business trips, for example, with successive stopovers across several countries.
Note that a detailed plan is often required for employees in the public sector in their application for business travelling. Concretely, agents must list all the expenses they expect to incur prior to travelling.
Once an employee has minimal knowledge about his impending mission, he will be able to consider a second point, namely, the reservations necessary for each stage of the business travel. In most cases, this simply means booking the means of transportation (train, plane, car, etc.) and the hotel, but it may vary depending on the employee’s organization.
Different ways to make reservations for business travel
There are several ways to make reservations for business travel, depending on the company’s processes. Booking can be made through specialized services in the company, such as a travel department or a travel manager, or through a corporate travel agency that works with your company. Lastly, “Self-Booking” may be an alternative solution that allows employees to make their reservations themselves, either via a digital tool provided by the company or via public websites and portals. We elaborate on this last point further down the page.
When following up on a business trip, it is always helpful to consider it in terms of return on investment. How much did it cost your company? Ultimately, what benefit did it bring you and your firm? In this time and age where telecommuting has become increasingly more popular, was physical attendance truly indispensable? The frequency of monitoring and reporting will depend on your job specifically, with some companies requiring regular updates to maintain a clearer view of their expenses.
Business travel in France
Given the ongoing health crisis, business travel has decreased dramatically. According to the Notilus study, 94 and 82% of the companies had maintained less than 20% of their business travel activities during the first and second containment, respectively.
According to the Montpellier Business School’s Pégase Chair study, 34% of business travellers did not fly in 2020.
According to the EPSA barometer, business travel saw a 63 to 72% reduction in 2020.
However, things have looked up since the beginning of 2022: more than half of business travel activities were reportedly maintained for 30 % of the companies.
Average annual expenditure
In France, it is estimated that more than 24,000 business trips and 78,000 overnight stays occurred in 2017. Over the past decade, the sector has continued to grow steadily. At the end of 2017, companies’ spending on business travel in France was estimated at $40.12 billion (USD).
Business travel, a major expense item for companies
This is an argument for travel management support we often put forward. Numerous studies have shown that business travel regularly figures among the top 5 most significant expenses of a company. Most of the time, a company’s largest expense item is human resources (including the employees’ salaries), followed by procurement or business travel. Yet, many companies still do not have a clear vision of their travel expenses and the savings they could make.
What does the French law say about business travel?
Without going into an exhaustive list of all the laws and the obscure terms they contain, we have decided to summarize each stakeholder’s rights and obligations.
What are the conditions for making a business trip?
Beyond material concerns, as a company, you must commit to several points for business travel as defined by the law. In particular, according to the Labor Code, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of his business travellers.
See, for example, Article L. 4121-1, paragraph 1 of the Labor Code, “the employer must take the necessary measures to ensure workers’ safety and protect their physical and mental health.” The company, therefore, is generally responsible for its employees’ safety, including during a business trip. In particular, employers are required to implement:
- Preventive action to reduce professional risks,
- Informational activities and training,
- A dedicated organization for business travelling and the appropriate tools.
As far as business travel is concerned, the Karachi ruling has also clarified the company’s responsibility towards its travelling employees. The Karachi precedent (TASS, 15/01/2004) has established the employer’s liability if he fails to meet his obligation to ensure the safety of his employee travelling abroad: “By virtue of the employment contract binding him to his employee, the employer is bound towards the latter by an obligation of effectively ensure their safety, in particular with regard to work-related accidents. Failure to meet this obligation constitutes inexcusable misconduct as defined by Article L. 452-1 of the Social Security Code, which applies when an employer was or should have been aware of the danger to which his employees were exposed and did not take the necessary measures to protect them.”
Traveller safety and data security
The stress from business travelling and the time spent preparing for it can be mitigated by defining and implementing a clear and explicit travel policy and providing appropriate solutions that help employees prepare for their travels safely and securely.
However, the safety of your travellers and the security of your data must be integrated into your corporate travel policy as well since the company is legally responsible for the safety of its employees when they are on business trips.
Moreover, in case of a problem, in addition to the damage suffered by the employee, the legal and financial repercussions can be catastrophic for the company.
What about travel to the place of business?
Article L3121-4 of the Labor Code simply tells us that the trip between home and the place of work does not count as business travel and is not reimbursed. In concrete terms, you are not supposed to be paid when you commute unless the duration exceeds the standard travel time between your home and your usual place of work. Only in this situation must the employer provide compensation in the form of rest or financial compensation. In no case should your commuting time result in a deduction of hours or a loss of salary.
Can an employee refuse a business trip?
In theory, no, an employee cannot refuse to travel for business purposes. Even if the employee’s employment contract does not contain a mobility clause or even if the position held does not require the employee to travel, this is not sufficient grounds for refusal. If the employee does not wish to travel, it is best to reach an amicable agreement with your employer.
There may be a “Travel Manager” or a travel department in companies. However, they do not share exactly the same responsibilities. The Travel Manager is in charge of managing and organizing business travel to reduce costs and ensure compliance with the company’s travel policy.
The travel department makes the reservations for employees. Their objective is to manage travel and organize reservations.
Of course, not all companies have a dedicated travel manager or travel department. It will depend on the company’s maturity, size, and the amount of business travel. Some large companies even have a Mobility Manager, a person in charge of managing everything related to corporate travel, including the company’s vehicle fleet.
Similar to travel agencies you may use for personal travel, there are corporate travel agencies for companies. This is often the solution most used by firms to manage their reservations. They may also be called “business travel agencies” or “professional travel agencies“. It should be noted that some travel agencies are specialized solely in business travel, for example, some of our partners: Bleu Selectour Voyage, Ailleurs Business, etc.
Some companies rely on a travel agency to negotiate and organize their business trips. The main advantage of a corporate travel agency is that its role is not limited to booking: it often serves in an advisory capacity for travellers. Furthermore, corporate travel agencies can help you when your business trips become more complicated, require stopovers in different countries abroad, etc. They also benefit from negotiated rates with travel service providers. However, they are often paid on a commission basis per trip. Sometimes they adapt to their clients and provide them with their own reservation portal or even a reservation portal specifically dedicated to the company (for larger groups).
Over the last few decades, what is known as “Self-Booking” has emerged, allowing travellers to book their business trips themselves. In some companies, employees make their reservations directly on public websites such as “Booking.com” or “CDS.” These sites aggregate the offers from different providers and are called SBT (self-booking tool) or HBT (hotel booking tool). While they offer your employees freedom and autonomy in their booking, they provide limited value for analysis or reporting. Employees may also end up spending a lot of time booking and preparing for their trip, often on their working hours.
This is where a solution such as Notilus comes in. Specialized in expense reports, we have integrated business travel management with fleet management. You can connect to any service provider, travel agency, or SBT from our solution. The main advantage is to manage all your reservations from a single platform, with reporting and analysis made easy through automation! It is feasible for companies that do not have a travel agency or specific travel providers to manage all their reservations on Notilus. Thanks to our native connections with different travel specialists, you can book :
How does the travel manager reconcile the demands and prerogatives of his company with employees’ needs?
Finally, the last point to address is the company travel policy. A clear and precise travel policy is essential to provide guidance to your employees, set a framework, and determine limits. But enforcing a travel policy may be impractical when your travellers make their reservations on their own using a plethora of different tools. In contrast, an all-in-one tool such as Notilus significantly simplifies your job while allowing you to create limits or caps, set up security alerts, etc.
Discover our articles entirely dedicated to the organization of your business trips
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