What life lessons can we learn from Bronwyn Bishop's
expenses claim for a $5,227 helicopter ride on taxpayers' money
to a party fundraiser, for a trip that would have taken an hour to
Firstly, know your employer! Some employers are amiable and
forgiving. Some are rough and tough - Australian taxpayers (and
their social media) are clearly not a forgiving bunch.
Forethought would tell you not to mess with an employer like
The second lesson is to always check the reimbursement form
yourself, before you sign it. Especially when you're telling
others to read theirs before signing... Saying that someone else
prepared the form and you didn't read it is hardly
Thirdly, what should you do if caught out? Paying back the money
is good. Some regret and contrition wouldn't go astray either.
If you say that you really didn't need to pay it back because
you think, really, it could be within the guidelines, it
doesn't look like you accept the rules your employer is
enforcing. The employer might just decide that you don't get
it, and it's better to move you on now than wait for you to err
Fourth, keeping your records in order and submitting them
promptly are the best way to go. Accuracy and honesty are
essential. Your personal credibility suffers if claims can't be
substantiated, or if they are submitted late so you can't
recall details when asked. Paying attention to the details
(any relevant limits, only claiming within the limits) is
Fifth, if you've been provided with a company credit card
and you're in a position where the company evidently relies
upon you to be honest and transparent with your use of it, keeping
the record of what the expense was actually for is important.
Unless it is clearly OK with the employer, never put personal
expenses on the company card, or if you do, be upfront about paying
them back. Adding personal purchases to the fuel for the company
car looks bad if it comes to light.
You can read more about use of company credit cards here.
We see quite a few disputes about expenses. It's usually not
the main issue, but it is a significant aggravation to other issues
between employer and employee, and the image of dishonesty, or at
best carelessness, can be hard to shift.
As Bronwyn's case demonstrates, the higher you fly, the
further you (potentially) have to fall.
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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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