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Travel FAQs

Travel Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

General

  • Who does the Travel policy apply to?

The Travel Policy applies to all staff, students and any person travelling with the knowledge and consent of the University and its subsidiary companies, including their accompanying spouse/partner and/or children. It applies to those travelling for study or on business on behalf of the University.

  • Who is responsible for the policy?

Any individual who requests, books or authorises travel in connection with University business is responsible for complying with the Policy.
The Business Travel Management Company, Heads of School/Function, and Finance for high-value bookings, are responsible for enforcing the policy when authorising travel requests.
The development of the Policy was led by Procurement, with input from a team of colleagues including from Sustainability, HR, Insurance and Health and Safety.

  • Who do I need to use to book travel?  

Do you need to travel?  Can you use technology as an alternative?  If not, please contact the Travel Management Company (TMC) who can help you with the arrangements. 

  • What do I need to do before I travel?

There are several actions you need to take:

Visit the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office website and check the latest travel advice. If you wish to visit a high-risk area (as per FCDO advice), you will need to get permission from the Vice Chancellor before you travel.

If you are travelling within the UK, you may book directly with the travel or accommodation provider. 

For travel within a travel time of 8 hours or less each way, a train must be used.  This includes routes to European destinations.  The travel time for European travel by train is calculated based on the departure from London St Pancras.  

Examples of capital cities within 8 hours travelling time from London St Pancras.

Destination

Train time (hrs)

Brussels

1.93

Paris

2.32

Rotterdam

3.27

Amsterdam

3.95

Luxembourg

4.82

Cologne

5.18

Vaduz

7.62

Over 8 hours travel time and outside UK, economy flights must be taken.  No business class flights. 

For all travel outside the UK, you must use one of the University’s travel management companies to arrange your travel and accommodation.

Complete the Overseas Staff Travel Form so that you are covered by the University’s travel insurance policy.

  • How long after the purchase is made for travel can I claim it back? 

For expenses claim – as soon as you have proof of purchase. 

For insurance claim – only once confirmed that there is a valid insurance claim.  Please contact the Insurance team uor-insurance@reading.ac.uk for more information.

  • I have questions about travel expenses. Who should I talk to?

Please refer to the Finance expenses policy

  • How far in advance should I start the travel request process?

As soon as you can but it needs to be 30 days prior to travel.  

  • Can the University book travel and accommodation for colleagues and be reimbursed by an event organiser later?

Ideally, the event organiser will book and pay of the travel and accommodation.  In these instances, the member of staff must follow the booking organisations travel policy.  Please check with the organiser and check whether you are covered on their insurance or whether you need UOR insurance. 

  • Why must the Travel Policy be followed when research funds and grants are involved?

The Travel Policy must be followed by any staff, students, visitors on University business or where the University is funding the trip.  All research funding and grants go into a University bank account and therefore is deemed to be University money. 

  • How should the Policy be applied for external visitors?

The Travel Policy applies to bookings made on behalf of anyone travelling on University business, including external guests visiting the University. Colleagues are advised to warn guests at the point at which their visit is confirmed that their transport and accommodation must comply with the Policy in order to be reimbursed.

  • Can I take IT and other equipment with me while travelling?

Please see Section 9 ‘Access to IT in high-risk countries’ of the Travel Policy for more advice. Please refer to the Health & Safety Code of Practice 38: Guidance on International Travel (Sections 4.1.8 and 7) to ensure any equipment you intend to bring on your trip is not subject to restrictions e.g. is illegal in the destination country or not permitted to be carried on the intended mode of transport. Where it is fieldwork, then Health & Safety Code of Practice 32: Fieldwork also applies.

Some software and data may also be restricted by UK export control procedures.

Ensure any equipment/devices are covered by your insurance policy.

Exercise caution if taking IT equipment to a high-risk country as access to some services might be restricted and different privacy laws may apply. Please refer to Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office advice before travelling.

  • What happens if I don’t comply with this Policy?

Nonā€compliance with this policy may result in action being taken in accordance with the University’s disciplinary procedures for staff and students.

For individuals external to the University, travel or visits to the University may be refused or not reimbursed.

  • What should I do if I have concerns about this Policy?

Any questions concerning this policy should, in the first instance, be referred to Lisa Jeffries, Director of Procurement.

Sustainable travel

  • Why is sustainability necessary for this Policy?

Sustainability is one of the key principles in the University Strategy, and the University has set a target to be net carbon zero by 2030. Travel contributes a large proportion of the University’s overall emissions – business flights contributed a third of our total emissions alone in 2018/19 – so new regulations and processes around this vitally important.

  • What does business travel include?

Any travel which is being undertaken on university business anywhere in the world which differs from your employment location(s). Examples of this includes conferences, field trips, study abroad, placements and research.

  • How do I know what mode of transport is greenest?

A Business Travel Hierarchy is included in the Policy document to help staff consider the most common forms of transport and make the most appropriate choice. The Hierarchy ranges from flights being the highest-carbon option of travel to walking or cycling or using digital alternatives to travel as the lowest.

  • Who decides if travel is sustainable enough?

Heads of School/Function are responsible for authorising travel (see ‘Authorising travel’ section). Carbon budgets will soon be assigned to each School/Function and these will help with prioritising and making decisions on travel.

  • Can I take a taxi to the airport?

Yes. Public transport should be used if possible but if not a taxi can be used.

  • How will the carbon budgets and flight levies work?

Work is ongoing to assign a carbon budget to each School/Function, to help prioritise and make decisions on travel requests. More information on this will be shared soon.

  • How will exceptions to sustainability criteria be monitored?

Approved exceptions will be monitored at an institutional level, not an individual level. This means that every travel request will be treated on its individual merits, while we will monitor whether the number of overall exceptions being granted is in keeping with an effective Policy.

  • Will the sustainability criteria unfairly penalise some individuals or compromise safety?

We fully recognise that some colleagues will be less able to choose low-carbon transport, due to having a disability, caring commitments or another reason. The Travel Policy will not prevent these colleagues from having equal opportunity to travel. Exceptions can be granted in certain individual circumstances.
Safety is the number one concern when booking travel, and exceptions to the Policy are possible when using a low-carbon transport option would compromise a colleague’s safety.

  • Where can I get advice on various aspects of the Policy?

Advice can be sought by colleagues from a number of teams: Heads of Schools/Functions on travel authorisation; Insurance on travel claims; the Travel Management Company for assistance in an emergency (out of hours charge may apply); Procurement on travel booking queries; Human Resources for advice on exceptions; Finance for assistance with budgets; and Sustainability Services on School/Function level emissions data.

  • Will travel that is already booked be affected by sustainability criteria?

All travel already approved prior to the launch of the Travel Policy on Aug 1, 2023 will not be subject to the sustainability criteria. However, where possible travel bookings should be amended to choose lower-carbon options.

  • Do the sustainability criteria apply to staff/student commutes?

The Policy currently only covers University business travel. However, the Sustainable Travel Principles (published in 2022 and on which the Policy is based), do provide guidance on sustainable commuting.


Booking and authorising travel

  •  If a member of staff pays for a student’s travel using a purchase card, must it then go through the Travel Management Company?

Yes. The booking should be made via the travel management company.

  • Can I use my own personal card to book hotel or flights?

Ideally not, school finance departments have access to University purchase cards which can be done on your behalf.  If this is not possible please refer to the Finance expenses policy

  • Does a PG/UG student need to book travel (flights, hotel) through the Travel Management Company if funding comes from the university? Or from funds held by University?

PG and UG students booking travel and hotels using university funds can book for themselves and claim back the expense. The travel booked must comply with the policy in order to be claimed back.

  • What if I am going away for more than 2-3 weeks?

Please contact the TMC in the first instance.  If they are unable to locate suitable accommodation or if the hotel costs are prohibitive then medium and long stay accommodation such as apartments and houses can be sort with the Head of Function / School approval. 

  • Can I book transport or accommodation myself if I find it cheaper than via the University’s Travel Management Company?

No, the University does not want or wish staff to be spending university time searching for the best deal.  If a cheaper flight is found please do let the TMC know and Procurement will monitor this with the TMC management information that is provided. The University has made the decision to use a TMC based on commercial models and quality criteria the supplier must meet.  The role of the TMC goes beyond just the cost of the ticket, but a benchmarking exercise will be undertaken.    

  • Who is responsible for authorising exceptions to the travel policy?

Heads of School/Function are responsible for granting any exceptions to their staff members.

  • Is there a company that helps us obtain a visa?

The insurance office can supply a confirmation of insurance cover letter for travellers.  This letter can be used when applying for a Visa. University teams are not qualified to advise on travel visas. It is recommended that travellers read embassy/consulate very clearly for guidance and applications. If studying abroad, a partner who has knowledge of immigration matters may be able to assist. CIBT Visas is an external organisation that may be able to assist - https://cibtvisas.co.uk/

 

Health & Safety

  •  My trip is low-risk - why do I need an international risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a crucial document which not only assists the individual to plan their trip safely but also enables the University to fulfil its duty of care obligations to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of its staff and students.  The worldwide security picture has changed significantly in recent years and it’s important that staff and students are up to date on potential risks of overseas travel, even in apparently low risk countries, and have suitable plans in place to keep themselves safe in an emergency scenario.

Please ensure to refer to the Health & Safety Code of Practice 38: Guidance on International Travel (Sections 4.1.8 and 7) to ensure any equipment you intend to bring on your trip is not subject to restrictions e.g. is illegal in the destination country or not permitted to be carried on the intended mode of transport. 

  • Where can I find the international risk assessment form?

Download and complete the international travel risk assessment TRA1 formThis will need to be authorised by your Head of School or Function.  Where the FCDO advises against all travel, or you are travelling to a sanctioned country, you will need to seek further authorisation from the Vice Chancellor before booking travel.  Your local Health and Safety Coordinator can provide further advice on risk assessment.

  • What happens to my risk assessment once it has been authorised?

Once your risk assessment is completed and authorised, please submit it as an attachment to the Overseas Staff Travel Form (you will see an option to attach it as you work through the form). It is stored by the Insurance team for ease of access in the event of an emergency which may occur out of normal business hours.

  • Why do I need to fill in both the international risk assessment and the overseas travel form?

These are separate processes to fulfil insurance and health and safety obligations.  However, the travel process is under review currently and ways to streamline this for staff and students are being considered. 

  • Whose responsibility is it to create a risk assessment for a trip/field trip?

The individual traveller or fieldtrip group leader. Please remember that for any fieldwork, Health & Safety Code of Practice 32: Fieldwork applies.

  • If another institution overseas has booked my flights and accommodation, do I still need to complete the international risk assessment and overseas travel form?

Yes.  As an employee or student of the University of Reading, a duty of care remains with your institution.

  • What if a colleague/student has travelled overseas but has not completed the international risk assessment or overseas travel form?

If a risk assessment has not been completed this may invalidate cover under the University’s insurance policy.

  • Do I have to inform the University’s Insurance team that I am travelling in order to be insured?

Yes, you must complete the insurance form to ensure cover is in place.