- Written by Seb Maley
In an ideal world we’d all have contracts around the corner from home. Unfortunately that is rarely possible and, more often than not, you’ll either have a sizeable commute, or will have to stay away from home during the week.
If you are having to stay away for a contract, we’ve come up with some tips which should help to make the situation more bearable.
Where to Stay
You’ve got a few options for accommodation when working away. The first that springs to mind is obviously a hotel.
There are plenty of websites that search through numerous hotels to find the best deals, so these should be your first port of call. Our favourites are:
These are fine for shorter stays. However, if you are looking at a lengthy contract it is worth contacting the hotel directly to see if they have discounted rates for long stays. The majority probably will, especially if it’s just week nights. Living at a budget hotel is reminiscent of Alan Partridge, but sometimes it’s the only option.
Ensure that any hotel you do pick caters for your needs, i.e. wifi, room service, bar etc. There’s nothing worse than being holed up in a bland room with only the noises of the amorous couple next door to keep you company.
Bed & Breakfast
Sometimes an independent bed & breakfast is a good option. You are more likely to be able to negotiate a long-stay discount with them and the rooms will generally be a bit more homely.
There are pitfalls, of course. Wifi and decent TV channels are unlikely and some B&B owners are oddballs who may be rather over-friendly.
Some B&Bs are listed on the hotel search sites, but it’s also worth a basic Google search for the smaller ones.
Actually renting out a flat or house may seem like a bit of a pain, but if you have a long contract with likely extensions it may be a cost effective option.
There are a couple of websites that cater for people looking for a room in a house. This is a great idea and seems to work brilliantly for contractors. Try spareroom.co.uk and mondaytofriday.com, which are both searchable by location and have a plethora of house-sharing opportunities.
One contractor I met had a motor home and stayed in that throughout the week. So, if you are comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a deserted layby, that is an option.
I’ve also met someone who stayed in a tent whilst on contract, but that’s rather extreme and probably not advisable at Canary Wharf in January.
A final thing to consider; if your contract is during the summer months you could look at student apartments. The dirty students won’t be there and many companies rent out the empty properties for peanuts to keep them occupied.
What to do
Staying away from home is always difficult, especially if you are leaving family behind. So it’s vital that you keep yourself as occupied as possible during the long nights. Staying in your room and watching endless Midsomer Murders DVDs is a risk to anyone’s heath, so try to think of something more exciting to do.
Have a look on the internet for activities you enjoy in the vicinity. Do you like playing 5-a-side football, or chess, or squash? Keeping physically active is important.
You may also want to use your spare time to gain extra skills. Some people will work on Open University courses, or you can immerse yourself in text books specific to your profession.
If you have a ‘plan B’ (i.e. a business idea away from contracting) it’s an opportune time to work on that as well.
What can I claim?
If you’re working away you’ll be able to claim expenses through your company. Here is a very quick guide:
- Mileage rates – the first 10,000 miles at 45p per mile, each additional mile 25p thereafter. For motorbikes it is 24p per mile and bicycles 20p per mile (regardless of mileage). Ensure you keep a log of all business journeys.
- You can also claim for toll fees, congestion charges, vehicle hire and car parking.
- Subsistence and accommodation can be claimed whilst working away from home on a temporary assignment. Care must be taken that expenditure is not lavish otherwise HMRC will consider whether, on the facts of the case, the expenditure is really attributable to business travel or is some sort of reward. This rule is general for all travelling expenditure.
- Personal incidental expenses (private phone calls, laundry, newspapers etc) can be claimed to a limit of £5 per night. These expenses must be reimbursed by the employer as the employee is not entitled to relief for expenses that they pay out of their own money and not reimbursed by the employer.
All rates are correct at the time of publishing. Contractor Weekly Ltd is not responsible for the content of any external websites.
Do you have any tips for staying away? If so, please add your comments below.