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Managing Per Diem Workers

Hiring per diem (or “daily” as-needed) workers can be a great way to expand your talent pool — and it's unavoidable in industries like petroleum, oil and gas — but they often lead to tricky challenges. A big one? Expenses. Per diem employees need a way to pay for the work items they purchase when they are out in the field, but asking them to pay out of pocket and submit receipts for reimbursement may create a financial hardship.

Financial leaders often turn to prepaid and company credit cards to ease the burden and to provide employees with a way to purchase when they are working at a job site. But companies need to be judicious about how they issue cards to workers in the field. By putting the right policy in place before doling out cards, you can help the business — and its workforce — get the most value, while avoiding inappropriate card use. Here are a few tips:

Tip No. 1: Issue Cards Only When It's Essential
Not everyone handles credit responsibly. Limiting cards to employees who frequently make purchases, such as field technicians or engineers, will reduce the pool of people who may potentially misuse a card. “I do not recommend handing a credit card to every employee at your business," says attorney Leslie Tayne at Tayne Law Group, who advises businesses on credit-related issues.

Tip No. 2: Set Spending Limits
Many cards will allow a company to put a ceiling on how much workers can charge for particular categories of purchases, such as hotels. Such limits offer an easy way to keep your team's spending in check. 

Tailor spending limits to common expenses that occur in the field in your industry. For instance, to cover supplies unexpectedly needed to complete a job, a telecommunications company technician might be well situated with a $500 limit, while an oil company engineer who supervises big jobs in several states would likely need to a higher limit to cover travel and other expenses.

Tip No. 3: Establish Checks and Balances
Deputize someone to approve all significant charges in advance to help keep employees' spending within limits, Tayne says. In the review process, you may discover that the company already has the parts a field service technician plans to buy in a warehouse 10 minutes from the job site, or that there is a cheaper place to buy the part than the one your tech is planning to use.

But if you are going to require advance approvals, the policy must be practical. Though you might want to have a manager sign off on charges for major pieces of equipment or parts, asking your team to get the okay to buy gas with their card could slow everyone down unnecessarily.

Tip No. 4: Require Receipts
It will be harder for field service employees to abuse a company card if they must provide receipts for each purchase. These receipts should be submitted to your accounting department and tracked in a spreadsheet. “That way, when your monthly expense report comes in, there are no surprises," says Tayne.

The Pro Tip: PEX Cards
Prepaid cards can eliminate both the potential for fraud and the hassle of collecting and processing numerous receipts. PEX prepaid cards are not credit cards, so there is no credit check. And the cards have tight, digitally-enabled spend rules that an admin sets up to ensure spending is authorized. The ability to fund and defund cards in real-time, see transactions as they happen, and flow the data into accounting software dramatically speeds up and simplifies the expense process.

At the end of the day, if there's one part of your business that you want to be boring, predictable, and secure, it's paying for everyday business expenses.

Learn more about PEX Solutions for Contracting & Construction, including expense management for remote field workers in the Oil & Gas industries.

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