Can hybrid workers claim travel expenses to the office?

As a result of the pandemic, new working patterns have emerged, and many companies have adopted hybrid working policies for employees. But with the news that more businesses are keen for staff to return the office there’s been a call from hybrid workers for their travel expenses to be reimbursed. So, from a tax perspective, what’s allowed?

HMRC has recently updated its guidance on what travel costs can be covered by companies. With the rise in home working – or hybrid work patterns which see teams only in the office for part of the week – there’s been a growing call for the costs of travelling to the workplace to be reimbursed. This can be especially true if staff members joined an organisation during the pandemic, or when remote working was more typical. Today, as many companies are keen to entice workers back to the office, there’s an increasing demand for those unforeseen costs to be covered.

With changes to the law, giving people the right to request flexible working, hybrid roles are much more the norm. So what’s acceptable when the business requires staff to be in the office, and staff are requesting that in order to do so they want their travel costs to be covered?

What travel expenses are allowed?

The current guidance allows the following expenses to be claimed by employees:

  • Public transport costs
  • Overnight hotel accommodation
  • Food and drink
  • Parking
  • Congestion charges and tolls
  • Business phone calls and printing costs

Travel costs to and from the normal place of work – usually your office – are not included. They are classed from a tax perspective as ordinary commuting.

Do you have to pay travel costs?

Ultimately the decision about whether to cover hybrid workers travel expenses is at the discretion of the business. But new guidance has been introduced to explain the tax position on any reimbursement of these costs for hybrid workers. In these situations ordinary commuting still applies – travel between the employee’s home and a permanent workplace is not classed as a travel expense. Any reimbursed costs will therefore be subject to tax and NIC.