Contractors' Questions: Can I bill my client for overseas weekends?

Contractor's Question: If I do not do business-related work at the weekends overseas but am there, away from my family, only because of my client's business, is it fair to charge the client for expenses I incur?

Expert's Answer: Without being told by the client in advance if the expenses are allowable, I would apply a common sense approach and a dose of pragmatism.

As a contractor in this situation, you should consider the position from the client's perspective. Of course, it's always better to make sure both parties (client and contractor) agree on expectations in advance rather than one party be disappointed by the expenses situation, which could damage the working relationship.

As a one off weekend, I would suggest that you claim the hotel and reasonable expenses and enjoy the weekend. If it is expected to be a regular occurrence, then table the options that are acceptable, which could be:

o Pay for the return flights over the weekend
o Pay for family to come over (but not their expenses which
would likely be stretching it)
o Pay for being on call - not the full day rate but a percentage for being available for work over the weekend, and usual rate if you are called in
o Pay usual day rate

If faced with a query about what costs you can charge to the client in the course of doing business for them, agreeing terms in advance gives clarity and avoids a more difficult negotiation after the event.

The expert was Alan Rommel, managing director of Parity Resources, the IT recruitment and services group.