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When employees are travelling on business and are more than five miles from both their normal place of work and home, they are allowed to claim for the meals that they purchase for their own personal consumption (subject to the rates below), this is known as subsistence.

In each case, the employee is entitled to the lesser of the allowance or the actual cost incurred. These rates apply to all expenditure whether funded by the institution or a research grant.

icon denoting more information Definition of subsistence vs hospitality

icon denoting more information Meals during transit

icon denoting tax treatment Tax treatment for subsistence

This table forms part of the Employee Expenses policy. Any deviations from the policy must adhere to the key principles and be authorised by the Head of Institution. Where appropriate, any claims must also align to the funder’s terms and conditions.

Expense category Allowable expenses Guidance / additional information

Subsistence in the UK

The University will refund an employee for a modest breakfast, light lunch, and a more substantial evening meal.

icon denoting exception Exceeding the subsistence rate in the UK

Breakfast If overnight accommodation does not include breakfast, it may be reclaimed separately.

If an individual is required, by exception, to leave home early, e.g. before 6 a.m., to work somewhere other than their normal workplace.

Subsistence rate is £10.
Lunch When absent from the normal place of work for more than 5 hours, and spanning the lunchtime period, lunch may be reclaimed. Subsistence rate is £10.
Dinner When absent from the normal place of work, for more than 10 hours, or staying away overnight. Subsistence rate is £25.


If absent for a period that spans both lunch and dinner, a claim up to £35 would be allowed, e.g., away between 9 am and 10 pm.

Alcoholic drinks Reasonable costs of alcoholic drinks which are taken with a meal may be reimbursed, where the total costs fall within the appropriate subsistence rate. Where alcoholic drinks are purchased separately, i.e., they do not accompany a meal, they are not seen as subsistence and will not be reimbursed.

Check the conditions of the grant as some funders may disallow any claims that include any element of alcohol.

Non-alcoholic drinks There is no requirement for these to accompany a meal. Reasonable costs of non-alcoholic drinks may be reimbursed where the total cost falls within the subsistence rates.
Tips and taxes Gratuities are claimable where they are not excessive and are in line with the customary rates for that country. Please note: the subsistence rates (above) include taxes (e.g., VAT/local equivalent) and gratuities (tips).

Subsistence overseas

Employees can be reimbursed for meals that are equivalent to the kind of meal that can be purchased in the UK, within the UK rates. Employees are not expected to exist on meagre portions in a country where the cost of living is high. Equally, the University will not meet the cost of a lavish 5-course meal simply because the cost of living is low in a particular country.

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