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I work as a permanent employee for an IT outsourcing company.

I've turned up to work after the new year to find that the office is empty. It turns out that nobody can Bill the company giving us a contract until later in the month, so we weren't expected to turn up to work yet.

I found out that I was supposed to get an email about it but wasn't included in the recipient list.

The problem is that I have now paid for a train ticket and two nights of hotel costs. And my employer is hinting that they will refuse to pay for any of the travel/hotel costs. I feel hard-done by since this has happened only because I wasn't sent the memo, and I wondered if this is normal or if there is any recourse I can take.

  • Will it depend on my contract with my employer?
  • Is there any general employment law that can help my side?
  • Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?

I intend to try and insist my employer pays for my costs because I don't feel in the wrong. What do you think?

EDIT: Good news...So I was able to claim the expenses from my company, just not from the client-specific project (for obvious reasons). There was just a bit of miscommunication and confusion.

This is a benefit of being a permanent employee and no doubt if I was a contractor would be shafted. Thanks for the replies.

  • Is the train ticket and hotel expense a standard part of your working routine? Was this travelling to a client location and if so how is it communicated to you when and where to go? Were you under instruction to go to this location until further notice or where you instructed with a given date range (I'd expect the latter with the given date range being what you were contracted for at any given time). If there is any reasonable way for you to have known (eg six months ago you were told it was only til the new year) then the employer may have a valid point. – Chris Jan 2 at 10:25
  • It's travel to a client location and part of the regular routine. I'm a new joiner though so have only been on the project for a month. No dates have been specified thus far so I wasn't told to turn up this week but equally wasn't told that I wouldn't be able to until later in the month. I just turned up after my holiday had finished – HelloWorld Jan 2 at 10:28
  • What about regular pay? It sounds like they have wasted a substantial amount of your time. Depending on the circumstances this might be easier to pursue and worth more money. – P. Hopkinson Jan 2 at 10:28
  • I get paid either way as a permanent employee rather than a contractor, so don't think I can pull the pay me for my time card aha – HelloWorld Jan 2 at 10:29
  • @HelloWorld: So when you started they just said "You'll be working at this site, here are the details" without giving any timeframes or anything? Also if you have only been workign there a month are you still in a probationary period? Being in a probationary period can be important because if you kick up too much stink on this they may just decide to let you go at the end of probation. This is much harder to do once out of probationary period. – Chris Jan 2 at 10:30
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I would agree with your assessment that it would be reasonable for your employer to pay these expenses. The trickier part is how to get them to do so.

At the end of the day the only way you have to force them to pay them is to take them to court which is almost certainly not something that you want to do for the price of a train ticket and two nights in a hotel so you need to persuade them to do so.

To do this you will need to email the appropriate people with a reasoned and compelling argument for why they should pay the expenses.

The points that I think are in your favour are:

  1. Your standard working routine as given and as performed for the last month would involve this trip and these expenses.
  2. At no point were you told that anything had changed about these arrangements.
  3. An email was sent out but you were not on the recipient list, something that should be indisputable.
  4. These expenses are standard expenses that have (I presume) been approved in the past. They are not unreasonable and are required for you to do your work.

It is also important to remember that this is a genuine mistake and therefore to keep the tone civil and about how you can work together to solve this and not how "They must fix their problem". To this end you could also try to discuss ways of making sure this doesn't happen again. Being on the email list is of course an obvious one but you could also try asking something like "Was there some procedure I should have followed that could have prevented this misunderstanding" or "How can I stop this happening again in the future?". Perhaps a system is needed whereby expenses need to be pre-authorised with your manager.

Discussing this kind of thing has two benefits - firstly it looks like you are trying to use this as a learning opportunity for you and the company to make things better but will also hopefully make them think about things more clearly and realise that there was nothing you could have done by current processes to actually avoid this problem (or if there is a current process in place you will be pointed at it and will learn).

Lastly I would repeat my opening point that if they refuse to pay your expenses after discussion you are probably just going to have to suck it up. The only way left to you to get the expenses is to take them to court which is going to cost both parties far more than the money in dispute and also lose you your job with the associated losses with that. This is not a viable course of action.

In that situation you can hopefully at least have established a way to have it not happen again.

  • " take them to court which is going to cost both parties far more than the money in dispute and also lose you your job" .... You underestimate how spiteful I can be ;) thanks got a good result will update my original question. – HelloWorld Jan 2 at 11:25
  • Glad there is a happy ending! And you can be spiteful, just don't combine it with stupid. ;-) Shooting yourself in the foot because there is a chance you might also hit the other person is not a smart move. ;-) – Chris Jan 2 at 11:33
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Mark your calendars folks.

In this case, HR IS YOUR FRIEND

This is the exact time, place, and circumstances to go to HR and have them straighten matters out.

Go to HR and plead your case.

1

Since it's really their fault you acquired said costs, I would say a formal email addressing the issue directed to all relevant people, keeping it factual and not inflammatory of course, is the correct course of action.

On your specific questions:

  • Yes, indeed, reading your contract will provide you insight on how this can be handled in case relevant provisions were included, in which case you should make sure to quote that in the aforementioned email.
  • That varies wildly based on the country/state your employment takes place and the contract was formed. Edit: UK offers employment rights, in contrast, to say the US with it's at-will employment model so I would also check up on that if I were you.
  • 1
    Thanks for the reply. Yeah I'm in a not overly formal email thread talking about it at the moment. I'll have to dig up the expense policies and my contract (boring), not exactly what one wants to be doing aha. – HelloWorld Jan 2 at 10:17
  • "since escalating the issue may take it too far in which case you may have to be prepared to be let go" - can you clarify that? I'm hard pressed to think how it would escalate to this point. Perhaps some pointers on how to not escalate it that far. I certainly can't think emails arguing the point (that it was standard work expenses and therefore owed and that it was the employers fault that the expenses were incurred unnecessarily) would provide any grounds for dismissal unless the OP was rude, insulting, or otherwise unprofessional in those emails... – Chris Jan 2 at 10:21
  • @Chris When OP isn't even salaried but merely on a contract, insisting on getting paid said expenses(especially if no provision on it was signed, to begin with) is what can get them over the tipping point, OP holds no bargaining power. – Leon Jan 2 at 10:47
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    @Leon: Ah, ok. You may have missed in their first paragraph them saying that they are a permanent employee, not a contractor. Though they may well still be in an initial probationary period to which similar logic could apply of it being easy to let them go. – Chris Jan 2 at 10:49

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