Our organization is looking for a new system to compensate staff that travels extensively for all the time spent away from home and family, I'm looking for general advice on systems or any resources that mighr be available (books, articles etc)

The current way we do this is by a compensation day-system. Each night an employee spends away from home we earn half a compensation day, these are then used to take half a day (or several full days) off, they can not be financially reimbursed but can be "saved" for as long as the employee stays with us.

The problem with this system is that many employees travel _extensively_ and then are entitled to take a couple of months off. This is very difficult for the organization to handle so in some cases employees choose simply not to use the comp-days, in other cases they do and we have to look for temporary replacements.

In a few cases a flat salary raise would probably do the trick, in others it's harder since the traveling isn't a normal part of the job but might all of a sudden be required. (ie somebody working out of our main office but for some reason might be required to work 2 months in another country once every four year or so)

So, sorry about the lengthy post, my question is: what are the good old standard models for compensating time spent away from home and family?


jhack's picture

I work in high-tech, and was a consultant for many years.  In this industry, there is no "comp time" for travel.  It's part of the job.  The wage structure includes an implicit premium for roles that entail a lot travel (that's one reason consultants have higher compensation - it takes more money for someone willing to forego time with family or for personal pursuits).  

And if someone needs to work for 2 months overseas every four years, then maybe a one time bonus?  

Frankly, one half day for each night away sounds extremely generous.  Maybe you have nothing for stays under four nights, then a schedule of compensation for longer stays. 

John Hack

rwwh's picture
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A big problem with any kind of compensation system is that "you get what you pay for". If you start compensating people for nights spent traveling, some people will suddenly "need" to travel more. I've heard a story about a transport company where this happened when they started compensating for Sunday nights on the road.

Best thing is to pay for results. ;-)


refbruce's picture

We've had to deal with this in two ways.  For staff who are hourly, we have to be pretty careful about having them travel at all and ensuring that their travel time is on the clock, as it were.  That's required for compliance with US federal labor laws.  Most people in my group who travel, however, are exempt (salaried).  For those people, we do count travel time at a 50% discount towards the accountable hours needed in a business month (typically 160 hours required over 4 weeks).   And people are often working very long days while traveling.  So, this does give them some ability to flex time to take a Friday afternoon off as compensation for traveling, but only within that business month.  We also work off a per diem for meals and incidentals (based on the GSA schedule) and it is quite legal to simply declare the full per diem amount each day as expenses.  If I spend more, it's out of my pocket.  If I spend less, it helps pay for things like wear and tear on my suitcases and the compensation dinner out for my wife while I'm gone.

At the same time, as a manager, I hold people accountable for the metrics that are on their performance plan.  People are welcome to flex time, as long as they're present when necessary (e.g. for staff meetings and other required face time) and they get work done. 

I doubt there's a one-size-fits-even-most sort of policy that works across companies or even within large organizations.  It requires an understanding and an agreement between manager and employee.  I understand that travel is a stressor (particularly since I logged something like 80 nights in hotels last year) and that I ask something of my people when I ask them to travel for business.  And there are a few people who don't travel regularly who see it as a perk -- so I try to arrange things for them to travel occasionally and take pressure off those who travel a lot.  When someone has a personal situation (e.g. pregnant wife, sick parent) where travel is an even larger stressor, we look for alternatives.  For some, a lot of travel is simply part of the job and the job expectations.  Deal with it, get your work done, and if this isn't the job for you, let's see what we can do over months to a year to get you into a different job.

markwalsh99's picture
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As per John's wise (as ever) counsel, does the overall salary package recognise this situation? Are the people already paid a premium? If so, then staying away simply goes with the territory.

Are these people lower-paid indvidual contributors? I always think of an imaginary line; above the line, I expect people to behave as 'professionals', use their own initiative, manage their time, work towards the objective regardless and so on. Below this line, then that's different. When I worked in a department of consultants (pay above my imaginary line), there was some contention about the situation whereby some consultants worked continuously away from home at customer sites and some didn't go anywhere. It was never resolved, although it was recognised in the assignements that certain individuals had 'done their bit'.

A very long time ago, when I worked for the Post Office, the nearest thing we had was 'Time Travelling to Other HQ Outside Normal Hours'. That was paid at normal hourly rate (not premium overtime rates) for any time travelling. Since then, I've never had any kind of recognition and indeed have been expected to step off a 24-hour flight from London to Australia (commenced in my time at the weekend) straight into a customer meeting at 0930 on th Monday morning. However, had I been required to work away from home continuously for more than 28 days (invariably a foreign assignment with no weekends at home), then I would have been entitled to a project-specific restatement of employment terms.

Can I come and work at your company?


sarahmark07's picture

The topic which you chosen for discussion is really very good....Thanks.

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