I'm an employee of a large multinational foreign company. That company has an office in Belgium1 (500-1000 people). Living in Belgium, my contract is actually with that Belgian branch.

For the past year and half, my company policy changed from a "we buy for you" policy to a "buy it, we refund you" policy.

Currently, for instance, I'm dispatched to the customer together with five other colleagues, I've paid my parking everyday since they introduced the policy change (15 € per day, so 300+ € per month). I'm refunded every month appropriately. The parking lot however gives a special reduction (15%) for companies with three people and more.

Recently, I've asked to follow a specific training, together with some colleagues. I was told to pay it upfront and get reimbursed afterwards. That's 2500 € per person. I couldn't pay that much at the time so I passed. The training company again offers reduction for companies.

Being a Java developer, I've asked to take part in Devoxx this year. Again, I'm told to pay it upfront. That's 750 €. I could pay it upfront, but that's money I can't count on just in case. I'm not aware of any company-specific pricing.

Also, the expense notes application is really badly done. For one month of parking tickets, it takes me between 1 h and 1 h 30 to fill everything correctly. Naturally, this is time I'm doing on work-time and I don't bill this to the customer.

As a summary, here are my problems with the expense notes policy:

Problems for me:

  • My money isn't mine anymore.
  • Sometimes I can't finish a month without taking from my reserve.
  • I can't always pay upfront.
  • There's the risk I lose my expense tickets (stolen, simply lost, mistaken for another one, etc.)
  • My company has the implicit right to refuse an expense note, leaving me with money I'll never get back (it has not happened to me yet).
  • Naturally I have a credit card and my expenses go on there, including my parking tickets. It's has an upper threshold. I was on holidays last year and wasn't paid back from my company so my credit card wasn't refilled yet. I was stuck there and had to ask my family for money to come back. The amount asked was less than what my employer owed me for the parking.

Problems for my company: (as I see them)

  • My company pays more because I can't have the "group" option.
  • People have to manually verify each ticket. For parking tickets for my small team, that's 100+ tickets per month, but it can be only 1 bill and no extra paper.
  • The tickets have to be stored for a little while.
  • There are extra bank transfers to each employees since each of us has to be refunded individually (yes, for some reasons, it's not on the same transfer as the salary).
  • They're paying me to do all the form-fillings that someone costing less could do better (my union thinks it can be a full-time job, maybe two, for the whole company while it's 1 hour x 500 employees is more than 3 full-time jobs).

All this makes that I don't see any single advantage to that policy, yet it is forced upon me.

So far, my company is correct: they've always refunded me within 60 days.

All this makes very little sense and makes me feel extremely insecure regarding money. I appreciate all the other parts of my company so I don't really mind and leaving isn't an option (yet).

I'd like to come back to something where I can focus on doing my job and not having to fear for my money. What are my options? Is it be possible to have some arguments that would make sense for my employer?

I can't fight at the parent-company level, but I'm well connected at the Belgian branch level.

[1] There doesn't seem to be any Belgium tag, and I can't create one, if needed.

  • 4
    My company has a similar policy, but I can easily request advance money that I carry back later when claiming the expenses. Maybe that's an option at your place as well? – helm Sep 13 '16 at 11:34
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    2 options - get a credit card specifically for work expenses that you repay when you are reimbursed - or get a new job somewhere else – HorusKol Sep 13 '16 at 12:14
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    Ah Belgian efficiency :-) – Brusselssprout Sep 13 '16 at 12:19
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    They refund you in 60 days? Wow. How much interest do you charge them? It seems you are giving out free loans. – nvoigt Sep 13 '16 at 12:54
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    Every company I've ever worked for for the past 20+ years, from 20 people to 1000, has had a similar policy. It is expected that employees will put the expenses on their credit cards and fill out an expense report (online these days) to get reimbursed. – shoover Sep 13 '16 at 16:09

I think it might make sense to approach management with the idea of dividing expenses into two categories:

  • small, such as parking, would continue to be handled as today
  • large, such as conference fees, would be paid in advance directly by the company

You need to present management with advantages of making this change.

  • it is more pleasant for employees not to have to lend thousands to a large company, fill up their own credit cards so they can't buy other things, and worry about being repaid on time. It is also more fair, since the company has resources
  • the company can get a discount if it sends several people to the conference
  • the bookkeeping is generally easier (classifying something as education or travel, for example)
  • some opportunities can be taken that were not taken in the past when employees were asked to come up with a large amount of money up front

I think this would alleviate the majority of your anxiety, the large expenses.

If in the future you consistently lose money because you misplace a parking receipt or the company denies a claim (two things that worry you a lot, but I note have never happened) you might be able to press for a category of "very small" expenses that don't need receipts, just a manager's signature. Your manager knows you were sent to [location] and that parking there costs X a day, so can easily sign that even though you only have 4 receipts, you paid for 5 days. Some companies also have "per diem" for meals that don't need receipts (and allow people to claim more than they actually spent, if they chose to eat cheaply.) But I would wait until this actually happens to you before advocating for it.

  • Many years ago I was told (by a major company) that the company needs an original receipt - however, a piece of paper that I signed, where I state that I want a refund for my parking cost, is an original receipt to the company. Worth checking. – gnasher729 Sep 13 '16 at 22:44

My office, also in Belgium, also large and corporate, has a similar policy. The advantage for the company is liquidity and cash flow - they put that burden back on the employee and it must somehow justify those disadvantages that you listed.

The difference in my case is that my company has two things in place that make it better for the employee, which you could suggest to your company:

1) They offer a company credit card (American Express) at no charge to the employee, with a high credit limit. The credit card still links back to my current account each month, but at least it buys some time for waiting for the reimbursement from the company. And then I never have to use my personal credit card for business purposes, which means I don't get stuck when I reach the low credit limits that are normal here.

2) The risk of lost receipts is decreased because there is a form you can fill out attesting to the loss of a receipt, which is then signed by your manager. The company tracks these, and I'm sure if you were losing receipts all the time, they would come talk to you...but at least you still get paid back. Also, they don't require a receipt for amounts less than 20 eur.

  • Hmm... This sounds interesting, bar for the part where the card is at your name. But I'll ask if there's something similar over here. Yet I was never offered this, despite asking several times for alternatives. Also, can you elaborate on the advantage for the company? I don't understand the concepts of liquidity and cash flow... – Someone Sep 13 '16 at 12:30
  • True - you have to be sure to make the credit card payments on time, to not damage your own credit, but it's worth it to have the flexibility I think...I've even used the company card on rare occasions for personal use when I didn't have my e-card reader for my personal card with me. Cash flow is basically the in-flow and out-flow of cash. The longer you (or the company) delay paying cash for something, the better. investopedia.com/terms/l/liquidity.asp investopedia.com/terms/c/cashflow.asp – Brusselssprout Sep 13 '16 at 12:39
  • Hmmm... Insightful. Thanks for your links, I understand why they might think it's good, being an international company, but I fail to see how this beats all what I wrote, just like you. – Someone Sep 13 '16 at 12:53
  • About 1: It also saves you from trouble when the company database is breached and your credit card info is out on the street. – user8036 Sep 13 '16 at 14:21

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