This policy is for members of the Governing Board. Last updated September 2021.

1 Introduction

The principle of the expenses policy for the Governing Board is to ensure that all Board members (Trustees) are reimbursed for expenditure reasonably incurred in the performance of their Board duties.

All legitimate expenses incurred in accordance with this policy will be reimbursed. It is the Trustee’s own responsibility to ensure that costs are reasonable. Cochrane reserves the right not to reimburse expenses when they are not deemed reasonable and do not comply with this policy.

Deliberately falsifying expense claims will be classed as conduct which has had or is likely to have a serious adverse effect on the Charity or “bring the Charity or any or all of the members into disrepute”; or is contrary to the interests of the Charity as a whole. Such actions may lead to termination of membership of the Governing Board and members will be asked to resign or may be removed from office and disqualified from eligibility as a Trustee under UK law.

2. Eligibility

This policy applies to all members of the Governing Board (Trustees) acting in their role as a member of the Governing Board. It does not apply to other Cochrane offices they may hold.

3 Guidelines on how to make expense claims 

3.1 Timeliness of submission and refund

Expenses should be submitted as soon as possible after they have been incurred; this should be not later than three months after the expense.

The Central Executive Team will process the claim within 15 working days after all relevant information has been submitted.

3.2 Receipts

Original receipts must accompany all claims. Lost receipts can be supported by credit card slips or statements; however, these will not be accepted as evidence of reasonable expenditure unless they has been approved by the Chief Executive Officer.  Any expenses claimed without a supporting receipt must be clearly identified on the claim form with a reason for why a receipt could not be provided.

3.3 Expenses

Claims should be made using the online expense claim form, which is designed to capture all the relevant information. Any claim that is incorrectly completed will be returned and remain unpaid until it is corrected.

Where expenses are incurred in currencies other than GBP (£), the amounts should be shown with the currency in question. Reimbursement will be made in the claimant’s home currency. The rate of exchange will be the rate in force on the date the expense was incurred.  Claimants may substantiate this by including a credit card receipt showing the rate of exchange used, or may consult online currency converters to find out the rate in force on a given date.

Expenses will be paid through credit transfer direct to the claimant’s bank account. Cochrane will not reimburse expenses via any other means.

3.4 Authorisation of expenses

All Trustee expense claims must be authorized by the Chief Executive Officer. Co-Chair expenses are authorized by the Treasurer. 
All expense claims must be submitted to invoices@cochrane.org.

The Central Executive Team will review the claim to ensure that all receipts are attached, and that the claim is both correct and generally compliant with this policy.  They will then pass the claim to the relevant person for authorization, flagging any uncertainties.

Expense incurred by Expense reviewed by Expense authorised by
Trustee Central Executive Team Chief Executive Officer
Co-Chair Central Executive Team Treasurer

3.5 Shared expenses

Where expenses are paid for a group of Board members (e.g., a group dinner) by one Trustee, the claimant must note the full names of other Board members in attendance and the reason for incurring the expenditure on the claim form.

4 Advances

Cash advances are not normally permitted. However, if there is an exceptional circumstance then the Board member may contact the Chief Executive Officer.

5 Exclusions

The following types of expenditure are not claimable (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Gifts
  • Traffic fines, parking fines and speeding penalties
  • Changes to planned travel and accommodation resulting in penalty charges which have not been approved prior to the change being made by Chief Executive Officer

6 Entertaining stakeholders & guests / accepting hospitality

Trustees must always uphold Cochrane’s reputation for independence and integrity. They should take care when offering and accepting lunch or dinner invitations with or from stakeholders. If Trustees are unsure whether to make or accept an invitation, they must obtain guidance from the Co-Chair.

  • Event-based hospitality, which allows Governing Board members to meet Cochrane stakeholders, and may shape or promote our work, is generally acceptable;
  • Work-related hospitality from a single stakeholder is acceptable where it can clearly be seen to be of value to Cochrane’s work;
  • Trustees should avoid hospitality that benefits them personally if it is difficult to justify as being of benefit to Cochrane or if there is risk of a suggestion of possible bias;
  • Trustees may entertain stakeholders and guests only where it is pre-approved by the Co-Chair(s) and is likely to help Cochrane to further its objectives;
  • Trustees should not allow themselves to enter into situations where they subsequently feel obliged to return an invitation;
  • Cost of drinks outside of an evening meal may only be claimed by Co-Chairs as part of approved business activity.

7 Travel expenses

Cochrane will pay reasonable costs of necessary travel on Governing Board business (i.e., activities approved by the Co-Chairs including attending Board meetings).

Travel which is primarily for private purposes does not count as Cochrane business.

Trustees are entitled to claim expenses for one full day prior the start of meetings, to rest from the trip.  For Governance Meetings, they are entitled to claim for the entire meeting, including registration fees for any symposia that forms part of the meeting. For Colloquia, registration fees will be paid by Cochrane and expenses for accommodation and meals for the duration of Colloquium in addition to the days of the Board meetings will be covered.

Governing Board members must make every effort to obtain the most economical rates, use the most cost-effective transport option available and take the most appropriate route consistent with the purpose of their trip.  Governing Board members should travel by the most cost effective and appropriate mode of transport, considering journey time as well as monetary cost for each part of a journey, and any special physical needs or disabilities they may have. Travel arrangements should be planned and booked as early as possible to benefit from early booking discounts.

7.1 Changes to travel plans and associated expenses

Individuals are required to consider their travel itinerary before tickets are booked to avoid the need for changes. This is applicable to all modes of transport. Where a booking must be cancelled, the individual should do this as soon as possible.

Cochrane will only pay for travel booking changes when they arise because of Cochrane changing a meeting time or date, or in exceptional circumstances such as extreme weather, or due to illness or bereavement. If tickets are changed or cancelled for personal reasons other than illness or bereavement, the Trustee will normally be expected to pay any additional costs incurred.

The permitted reason for the change must be set out in the claim or booking, to ensure that Cochrane can demonstrate control over the use of its charitable funds.

7.2 Taxis

Public transport should be used wherever possible except where it is either impractical or inappropriate. In such cases licensed taxis may be used.

Though travel by public transport is expected for short journeys, in the following circumstances it may be necessary to use a taxi:

  • Where equipment or heavy baggage is being carried
  • When no public transport is available or it feels unsafe (for example, in the early morning or late at night) 
  • Where the claimant is pregnant or has a disability/ mobility issue

Taxis should be paid, and costs reclaimed in the normal way. For travel to and from airports, if impractical, inappropriate or not possible to use public transport then use of licensed taxis is acceptable. In order to secure the lowest rates, taxis should be pre-booked wherever possible.

7.3 Trains

Governing Board members should travel on trains with the most cost-effective ticketing option that meets business needs. Expensive flexible tickets offering varied return times should not be purchased. If such a ticket is required for business reasons, this should be approved by the Chief Executive Officer prior to booking.

7.4 Air travel

Air travel should only be used when it is the most economical and practical method of travel. The most cost-effective ticketing arrangements must be used.

Air travel on Cochrane’s business should generally be by economy class. Cochrane will not meet the cost of first-class air travel. Premium Economy air travel will be allowed for long distance travel where a single leg of a journey includes a flight over seven hours duration, and where the ability to work on the flight is essential.

Business class is not generally allowed unless a Business Class fare is cheaper than an Economy or Premium Economy fare.

As a guide:

  • Flights of less than 7 hours: Economy fare
  • Flights of 7 or more hours: Premium Economy, Economy Plus or a fare of lower or equivalent cost 

Expensive flexible tickets offering varied return flight times should not be purchased. If such a ticket is required for business reasons, this should be approved by the Chief Executive Officer, prior to booking.

If a Trustee chooses to upgrade their ticket at their own expense, Cochrane will provide a refund based on a standard (i.e., not fully flexible) Economy fare (if less than seven hours) or Premium Economy fare (if over seven hours) on the most direct route (if possible by the national carrier of the arriving or departing country), and the production of valid proof of purchase.

Airport parking should only be used where the cost is less than traveling to the airport by other modes of transport.

7.5 Food

Trustees are required to submit receipts for all food purchased during the travel.  Modest amounts of alcohol are reimbursable (for example a glass of wine with dinner).  It is expected that Trustees are not extravagant in expenses incurred. Per diems (daily allowances) are not provided.

7.6 Car, motorbike and bicycle expenses

Business travel by car should only be undertaken if other more cost effective and lower carbon modes of transport are not available or are impractical.

In the event of an insurance claim, Cochrane will not pay any excess charges levied by an insurance provider.
In relation to the use of private vehicles, the following rules apply:

  • Trustees are  responsible for ensuring that both they and their vehicle are appropriately insured for business travel;
  • Fines for traffic offences will not be reimbursed if incurred whilst on business travel.

Where it is cost effective to make a business journey by car, motorcycle or bicycle, Trustees may claim a mileage allowance using the relevant government mileage/ km allowance reimbursement rate in their home country or the country where the travel occurred.

The claim should include details of from where and to, mileage and reason for the journey.

7.7 Tolls, congestion charges and parking expenses

Tolls, congestion charges and parking fees are reimbursable whilst travelling on Cochrane business.

Fines or interest charges regarding late or non-payment a will not be reimbursed.

7.8 Other travel expenses

Cochrane can only reimburse excess baggage costs that result from carrying equipment on behalf of Cochrane.

The cost of receiving vaccinations required for overseas travel on behalf of Cochrane can be reclaimed.

Cochrane will normally reimburse reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of postage, phone calls and stationery, currency exchange fees and bank charges, subject to a receipt being submitted with the claim.

If you are in doubt about what may be claimed, or wish to claim for items not mentioned in this expenses policy, please contact the Chief Executive Officer prior to incurring the expense.

8 Travel insurance

Cochrane has a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place for those travelling on Cochrane business and so no separate cover should be taken without prior consultation. Appropriate documentation regarding travel insurance will be provided prior to travel.

9 Accommodation

Cochrane will endeavour to book accommodation for members at Governance Meetings and Colloquia, to take advantage of block booking discounts.  Where this service is not available, Trustees are expected to choose from hotels which have negotiated special rates for the events, or hotels where the rates are at an equivalent charge to the event hotels.

9.1 Type of accommodation

In all cases the cheapest type of standard room available should be used. However, it is acknowledged that in some cases a room with a kitchen may be required so that the Trustee can cook their own meals to meet their dietary requirements.

9.2 Cancellation & no show charges

If accommodation needs to be cancelled, Trustees should ensure that it is cancelled appropriately to avoid penalties and charges. Unless there is an urgent personal or compelling business reason for cancelling a reservation after the cancellation deadline, any charges incurred will be deemed the personal responsibility of the Trustee and are not reimbursable.

10 Subsistence

10.1 Subsistence when staying away overnight

Cochrane will reimburse reasonable out-of-pocket expenses when a journey on Cochrane business makes it necessary to stay away from home overnight. Breakfast, lunch and an evening meal with a drink can be claimed.

10.2 Subsistence when staying with friends or relatives

If a Trustees has to stay away from home overnight on Cochrane business, and chooses to stay with relatives or friends instead of a hotel, they may claim the costs of a reasonably-priced meal as a ‘thank you’ to the hosts.

11 Phone calls

Communication in the most economical way, such as through WhatsApp, is encouraged. If business telephone calls must be made from a home telephone or a personal mobile phone, the cost of the calls can be reclaimed.

12 Gifts

It is Cochrane policy not to accept, provide or receive gifts either from an individual or an organization. If an individual or organization insists on making a gift which could compromise either the Trustee or Cochrane (as a guide, anything exceeding a monetary value of £50 GBP), it should be donated to a charity of Cochrane’s choice.

Gifts of less than £50 in value may be accepted by Trustees but should be disclosed to the Co-Chairs. Promotional gifts such as pens, mugs, mouse mats with a value of less than £10 in value do not require declaration and may be accepted by members. Under no circumstances should gifts of any value be accepted from a pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturer, or any other organization with a commercial conflict of interest relevant to the content of Cochrane Reviews or Cochrane’s work. If members have any uncertainty regarding this they should discuss it with the Co-Chairs.

13 Charitable donations

Trustees should not make donations on behalf of Cochrane either through use of a Cochrane credit card or out-of-pocket expenses.

14 Summary of non-reclaimable expenditure

This list is intended to provide clarification of the key areas outside the scope of legitimate expenses. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

  • Air travel tickets bought for class of travel above policy 
  • First class rail travel unless adhering to the policy 
  • Travel bookings amended for personal reasons not including illness or bereavement
  • Late travel booking premium, where Cochrane scheduling allowed for early booking
  • Car costs beyond mileage or hire/fuel and receipted parking fees
  • Use of personal car where it would be more cost-effective to travel by rail/air
  • Use of hire car except in exceptional circumstances
  • Travel/accommodation for accompanying individual including upgrade to double/family room
  • Expenditure not related to Cochrane activities
  • Receipts addressed to a third party
  • Claims for expenditure submitted more than three months after expense
  • Hospitality without prior authorization of the Co-Chairs