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Travel and Expense Policy

Area Responsible for Administration: Financial Services
Approval Authorities: Senior Executive Committee
Approval Date: November 2016
Revision History: None
Review Timeline: Every 3 Years


To provide guidance on the claiming and reimbursement of expenses incurred by employees for Seneca business.


This policy applies to any person representing the institution making an expense claim, including all employees, board members, appointees, volunteers, consultants and contractors.

Key Definitions


An individual making a formal demand for a payment.


The provision of food, beverage, accommodation, transportation and other amenities paid out of public funds to people who are not engaged to work for Seneca, Broader Public Sector organizations or any other Ontario government ministries, agencies or public entities.


1. Policy Statement

1.1 It is the policy of Seneca to set out rules and principles for the reimbursement of expenses that ensure fair and reasonable practices and provide an accountability framework that guides the effective oversight of resources.

1.2 Seneca will reimburse allowable travel, meal and hospitality expenses that support its business, are of an appropriate standard and are supported by proper documentation.

1.3 This policy is consistent with the Ontario Broader Public Sector Expenses Directive issued by the Management Board of Cabinet.

1.4 All guidelines stipulated in this policy are in Canadian funds.

2. Principles

2.1 This policy is based on the following four (4) key principles, as outlined in the Ontario Broader Public Sector Expenses Directive:

  • Accountability: Seneca is accountable for funds used to reimburse travel, meal and hospitality expenses submitted by employees. All expenses incurred by employees must support Seneca’s business objectives.
  • Transparency: The rules surrounding travel, meal and hospitality expenses and employee reimbursement for these expenses are clear, easily understood and available to employees and the public on Seneca’s website.
  • Value for money: Funds must be used prudently and responsibly. All travel, meals and hospitality plans must support Seneca’s business, be necessary and economical with due regard for health and safety and have appropriate authorization.
  • Fairness: Legitimate, authorized expenses incurred by employees during the course of Seneca’s business will be reimbursed.


3. Employee Claims

3.1 Employees shall ensure expenses incurred during the course of Seneca’s business receive approval from the appropriate authority. All appropriate approvals must be obtained prior to incurring expenses, where possible. Authority levels for travel authorization, cash advances and travel expenses are outlined in Appendix B.

3.2 Employees shall submit claims with original, detailed receipts for all items on a monthly basis. Seneca may reject reimbursement claims that are more than three (3) months old. Electronic or scanned receipts are acceptable if claims are also submitted electronically.

3.3 Employees must obtain written approval to receive reimbursement for expenditures with no receipts.

3.4 Employees shall repay any overpayments on claims.

3.5 Employees ending their employment with Seneca must submit any expense claims prior to leaving Seneca.

3.6 In situations where expenses are incurred for a group of employees, the most senior person present at the event shall submit a claim for the expenses.

4. Consultant and Other Contractor Claims

4.1 Consultants and contractors are not eligible for hospitality, incidental or food expense reimbursement in any contract with Seneca. Expenses that are not reimbursable include:

  • Meals, snacks and beverages
  • Gratuities
  • Laundry or dry cleaning
  • Valet
  • Dependent care
  • Home management
  • Personal telephone calls.

4.2 Consultants and contractors may be reimbursed for allowable expenses if outlined in their engagement contract.

5. Claim Approvals

5.1 Employees approving expense claims shall ensure that the expenses claimed were necessarily incurred in the performance of Seneca business and that the appropriate documentation is presented before providing an authorizing signature.

5.2 Employees shall not approve their own expense claims. Approval at the next higher authority level must be obtained before the claims can be processed.

6. Travel

6.1 Seneca shall reimburse the legitimate and reasonable travel expenses of persons travelling on Seneca business. Travel expenses are allowed for the employee only. Any share of expenses applicable to an employee’s spouse or related persons accompanying the employee shall not be reimbursed.

6.2 A Travel Authorization form must be approved by the appropriate signing authority before travel and related expenses are incurred. Refer to Appendix B for the signing authority levels required to approve travel within Ontario, North America and outside North America.

6.3 Employees must select the most practical and economical means of travel. Seneca may allow for flexibility with international travel based on location, length of travel, available accommodations and health and safety.

7. Meals

7.1 Meal expenses that are reasonable and appropriate will be reimbursed.

7.2 Employees attending business meetings or events at any Seneca campus must not claim for meals while at that campus.

7.3 Maximum reimbursable meal rates, including taxes and gratuities, are as follows:

  • Breakfast – $15.00
  • Lunch – $25.00
  • Dinner – $40.00

7.4 When employees claim more than one meal for a day, they may combine the maximum rates and allocate the sum between the meals. Only meal expenses actually claimed for the day may be used in the combined rate.

7.5 The maximum allowable gratuity is 15% of the total cost of a meal.

7.6 Itemized receipts are required to claim meal expenses that are within the maximum reimbursement rates stated in section 7.3. Claims in excess of these rates shall require justification and approval.

7.7 Meals included in conference fees, flights, provided by the employee’s host or in any other means already covered in other costs are not reimbursable.

7.8 Reimbursement rates determined by the federal government will be used for claims where the meal expenses were incurred outside of Canada. For more information, refer to the current version of the National Joint Council Travel Directive.

8. Hospitality

8.1 Hospitality may only be provided when it does not obligate, appear to obligate or inappropriately influence the recipient and is provided in support of Seneca’s initiatives and objectives.

8.2 Hospitality events shall use Seneca-owned facilities when possible and appropriate.

8.3 Functions involving only Seneca employees, employees of Broader Public Sector (BPS) organizations and Ontario government ministries, agencies or public entities are not considered hospitality functions and must not be reimbursed.

8.4 Contractors and consultants are not eligible for hospitality expense reimbursement.

9. Alcohol

9.1 The reimbursement of alcohol expenses requires the approval of the President.

9.2 Alcohol shall only be served at events when prior written approval has been obtained from the President. The department hosting the event shall work with the President’s Office to obtain required liquor licenses and ensure compliance with required regulations and legislation.

9.3 The serving of alcohol at an event must be done in a responsible manner. Food must be served when alcohol is available.  

9.4 Alcohol included in meal expense claims will not be reimbursed.

10. Meetings and Events

10.1 Meeting expenses may be claimed if they support Seneca’s business, but are not regularly scheduled internal/departmental meetings. Reimbursable meeting expenses include activities and events provided to Seneca employees (including staff professional development events), employees of BPS organizations or any Ontario government ministries, agencies and public entities that advance Seneca’s strategic directions. Non-reimbursable meeting expenses include office social events, retirement parties and staff holiday parties/lunches unless the meeting is approved as outlined in section 10.5 of this policy.

10.2 Meals served to employees as part of an internal/departmental meeting will only be reimbursed in cases where the meeting falls inside of a regular meal period and could not be accommodated at any other time, or where serving a meal at the meeting is seen as an efficient use of the employees’ time.

10.3 Requests for reimbursement of meeting expenses must be accompanied by original, itemized receipts, proof of the business nature of the meeting and a list of employees in attendance.

10.4 Light refreshments may be served at meetings involving non-employee members or employee-only meetings that are in excess of two (2) hours.

10.5 Office events, retirement parties and staff holiday parties/lunches will be covered by Seneca to a maximum of $15.00 per person and require prior approval by the Dean or Director. The approval of the President is required if alcohol is to be served.

10.6 The President may approve Seneca-wide events for business purposes or events that are considered desirable as a matter of protocol or courtesy. Alcohol may be served at these pre-approved events.

10.7 Seneca may also provide support, including meals and refreshments, when hosting staff from other institutions and during discussions or conferences on issues of mutual interest and/or that seek to further institutional or governmental objectives. Expenses related to these situations shall be claimed as meeting expenses, provided approval is obtained from the appropriate Vice President or the President.

11. Gift Giving

11.1 Appropriate token gifts of appreciation and retirement, not including cash, may be offered in exchange for gifts of service or expertise to people who are not engaged in work for Seneca. Appropriate, detailed receipts must accompany any claim for reimbursement.

11.2 Appropriate gifts of compassion or condolences are reimbursable expenditures.

11.3 Gifts purchased for social events held within a department are not reimbursable expenditures. Items purchased must be funded by the department collections for the gift.

12. Non-Reimbursable Expenses

12.1 Expenses considered personal in nature are not reimbursable by Seneca. Employees may only claim reasonable charges necessarily incurred in the course of carrying out authorized Seneca business.

12.2 Non-reimbursable expenses include:

  • Items purchased for personal use
  • Fines incurred as a result of any criminal act or traffic violations
  • Fines resulting from border crossing violations
  • Hotel room movie/game charges and in-room bar services, excluding the purchase of water
  • Any additional/incremental costs incurred as a result of travelling with a spouse, partner or friend
  • Credit card fees and interest charges
  • Expenses incurred on behalf of other Seneca employees, unless the individual is submitting the claim on behalf of a group and is the most senior person in the group
  • Club memberships for personal recreation or socializing purposes
  • Professional advisory services for personal matters, unless prior approval is received from the appropriate Vice President or the President.

13. Benefits Accruing from Travel Inducements

13.1 Employees shall apply benefits earned and accumulated as a result of travelling on Seneca business against the purchase of future travel expenses. Formal reporting of these benefits is not required due to the cost and complexity associated with reporting and quantifying the value of airline, hotel, car rental and credit card incentives.

13.2 Employees are responsible for quantifying and reporting the value of benefits earned and accumulated as a result of travelling on Seneca business for income tax purposes. For more information, refer to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Interpretation Bulletin 470R.

14. Failure to Adhere to the Policy

14.1 Should an employee fail to adhere to this policy, the supervisor of the employee shall take appropriate corrective action in consultation with Human Resources, which may include a review of the employee’s authorization to travel and/or disciplinary actions.

14.2 The employee will reimburse Seneca for ineligible expenses identified in an audit.

Supporting Documentation

Related Seneca Policies

Related Materials

Appendix A: Kilometre Reimbursement Rates



Cumulative kilometres driven in a year** Southern Ontario
(cents per km)
Northern Ontario
(cents per km)
0 – 4,000 km 40.0 41.0
4,001 – 10,700 km 35.0 36.0
10,701 – 24,000 km 29.0 30.0
More than 24,000 km 24.0 25.0

*As per Memorandum issued from the College Compensation and Appointments Council, August 16, 2006.

**Employees must track their cumulative kilometres driven per year, and use the appropriate rate on each claim.

Use of Highway 407 and other toll roads

The destination and purpose of travel must be provided on the expense report.
Employees will be reimbursed for the following costs:

  Employee has a transponder Employee does not have a transponder
100% Seneca-related travel
  • Cost of travel on the toll road
  • Cost of the account administration fee (monthly or annual flat fee)
  • Cost of travel on the toll road
  • Cost of the video toll fee per trip
  • Cost of the account administration fee (monthly or annual flat fee)
Less than 100% Seneca-related travel
  • Cost of travel on the toll road
  • Cost of travel on the toll road
  • Cost of the video toll fee per trip

Appendix B: Travel Authorization, Cash Advanced and Travel Expenses

The following denotes positions with signing authority for final approval:

Travel Approval
International Travel outside of North America President
North America Vice-Presidents
Within Ontario Associate Vice-Presidents, Deans, CIO, Executive Directors and Directors

Seneca international staff may obtain prior approval for their travel program on a quarterly basis from the Vice President, Academic or the President.

Employees shall obtain approval from their superiors even if the travel area is within their authorization.

Limits for cash advance and travel expense authorizations are as follows:

  Cash Advance Travel Expense
President No limit No limit
Vice Presidents $10,000 $20,000
Deans and Directors $5,000 $10,000
Managers N/A $5,000

Appendix C: Travel and Expense Checklist

Before Travel

  • Obtain approval prior to making travel arrangements by completing the Travel Authorization Form or an email approval for travel.
  • Complete Travel Advance form for cash advance (in Canadian funds), obtain approval and forward the form to Accounts Payable five business days prior to date required.
  • Make travel arrangements after receiving approval.
  • Obtain approval and purchase additional health insurance, as appropriate, before out-of-country travel.

During Travel

  • Retain original, itemized receipts for all expenses incurred. These receipts must accompany claims.
  • Submit electronic receipts or printed copies of electronic receipts if hardcopy receipts are not provided.
  • If a receipt is lost, or a detailed receipt is not provided, complete a missing receipt form, obtain approval and attach the approved form with the expense claim.
  • Payment of tips/gratuities can be submitted with a credit card slip (attached to the itemized receipt) for meal reimbursements. If a credit card receipt is not available, an approved missing receipt form will be accepted. The maximum allowable tip/gratuity is 15% of the total cost of the meal.
  • If using a personal vehicle for business travel, record the actual kilometres driven in the course of business travel with personal vehicle for reimbursement claims (see the attached Kilometre Reimbursement Rates in Appendix A).

After Travel

  • Complete and submit expense claims for approval within 15 days of the completion of travel.
  • Attach scanned copies of all receipts and slips, including the travel authorization, to your supervisor.
  • Reconcile a cash advance on the expense report form.
  • Report all transactions in Canadian funds; all funds owing to the employee will be reimbursed in Canadian funds.
  • If incurring expenses in foreign currencies, convert to Canadian funds; provide scanned receipts outlining conversion rates.

Appendix D: Travel and Expense Quick Guide

These are the steps to be followed before, during and after travel and for reimbursement of non-travel related expenses:

  1. Authorization and Cash Advance
    1. Obtain authorization for travel as outlined in Appendix B
    2. Complete Cash Advance for, if funds are required for travel

  2. Travel by Vehicle
    1. When travelling out-of-town on Seneca business, employees are encouraged to rent a vehicle under Seneca’s name, ‘Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology’, rather than use their own vehicle or rent one under their own name. This ensures coverage by Seneca’s commercial insurance procedure. A general guide is to rent a vehicle for distances greater than 200 kilometres, excluding travel to Peterborough Campus for Seneca business.
    2. No vehicle rental insurance should be purchased from the vehicle rental agency when travelling on Seneca business within Ontario. For vehicle rental outside of the Province of Ontario, rental insurance is required.
    3. Employees travelling together or to the same destination should share automobiles, where practical.
    4. Where employees use their own personal vehicle for business travel, in-town or out-of-town, Seneca’s insurance procedure does not cover the vehicle for liability or damages. These damages, if incurred, are paid and claimed to the employee’s car insurance provider. Individuals need to ensure there is adequate coverage from their insurance provider for their coverage.
  3. Out of Country Travel Insurance
    1. Seneca’s extended health care plan provides limited out-of-country coverage for hospital and medical expenses. Employees travelling outside of Canada on Seneca business are encouraged to purchase additional out-of-country health insurance. This purchase requires prior approval by submitting a request with the travel authorization. Seneca will reimburse the cost of the premiums for additional coverage if they are supported by appropriate receipts.
    2. Trip cancellation insurance may be purchased by the employee, based on the business needs of the employee.

  4. Accommodation
    1. A standard room is the set option for accommodation, consistent with the principle of value for money.
    2. Accommodation will be economical (government or corporate rate where available).
    3. Hotel guarantees will be billed to Seneca’s corporate credit card or to the traveller’s personal credit card.
    4. Non-College employees travelling on Seneca business should be provided with a letter indicating that they are travelling on Seneca business and are entitled to receive the government or corporate rate, where available.
    5. Private accommodation with relatives or friends may be arranged. An allowance of $30.00 per night may be claimed in lieu of a charge for commercial accommodations, provided the funds are used for a gift or token of gratitude for the host. Instead of a receipt, a written explanation stating the purpose of the trip and identifying the host and the number of days spent with the host may be submitted.
    6. Hotel Internet charges may be reimbursed when the Internet is used for business purposes.

  5. During Travel
    1. Meals
      During domestic travel, meal expenses must be in line with the thresholds as listed under the Meal section above and for international travel within maximum limits outlined with National Joint Council. Where meals are included on a hotel accommodation invoice, the employee must include the restaurant’s detailed receipt to support the charge on the hotel invoice. No claim for meals may be made when meals are included in the transportation fare or in the cost of registration fees unless there are extenuating circumstances.
    2. Incidental Expenses
      For each full day of travel, an employee may claim up to $10.00 for incidental expenses such as gratuities, laundry and dry cleaning. These expenses should be supported, where possible, with original, itemized receipts.
    3. Telephone
      Long distance phone calls should be of a reasonable duration, frequency and kept to a minimum. Mobile phones must be used in the most economical way available during travel. Employees are requested to shut down roaming features on their phones, use on-line calling applications such as Skype and FaceTime and buy appropriate phone packages suitable to their needs.
    4. International Travel
      Claims for expenditure in foreign currency are to be reported in the local currency and converted to Canadian dollars. Exchange rates are available on the Bank of Canada website. Expenditures made by credit card will be converted at the rate on the credit card statement. For travel outside Canada and the United States, the actual cost of meals and incidentals shall be claimed. Such claims must be substantiated, by receipts, where possible, and shall not be unreasonable. Maximum meals rates are listed on the National Joint Council website.
    5. Hospitality While Travelling
      It is recognized that at times it is necessary to entertain business partners and associates. Employees are expected to apply a common sense approach with a view to minimizing these expenditures. Supporting documentation is required for employee reimbursement. Hospitality cannot be claimed for consultants, contractors or other Broader Public Service employees.

  6. After Travel
    1. Travel Expense Claim
      The form for the Travel Expense Claim for reimbursement of allowable expenses must be completed and submitted within 15 working days of the completion of the trip if expenses are being claimed or if a travel advance was issued to the employee. Original or scanned, itemized receipts or all expenses being claimed must be submitted with the Travel Expense Claim form. The Travel Expense Claim must be approved according to the level of signing authority as outlined in Appendix B of this Procedure prior to submission to Finance for payment. Approvers of Travel Expense Claims must ensure that claims are for legitimate business expenses only and are in compliance with this procedure, including all required documentation to support the claim (original, itemized receipts). An employee cannot approve his or her own expense claim. The employee must obtain approval from the next higher level of signing authority as outlined in Appendix B.

  7. Travel Advance Overpayment
    Any cash advance overpayments are considered a debt owing to Seneca. Employees are required to reimburse Seneca within 15 days of the completion of the trip.