When is travel time working time…?

As a result of recent case law (the “Tyco” case) some employers may be required to pay their employees to travel to and from work.  This is only the case where:

  • Employees are paid on an hourly rate
  • They have no fixed place of work, and
  • The employer controls where they travel to each day.

In these circumstances employers may be required to pay employees from the moment they leave their house to when they return back home, rather than just the time they spend at the workplace.  The reasoning behind this is that the employer controls the travel time, so one day the workplace may be only 5 minutes from the employee’s home, and the next day it might be 2 hours away.  The argument is that staff shouldn’t have to absorb this time differential personally.

What do employers need to consider?

  • If your staff aren’t peripatetic, i.e. they only work at one place, then this change won’t affect you.  
  • Equally if your staff are paid a salary and required to work the hours necessary, then this probably won’t affect you, even if they are required to work in different locations.
  • If your staff assemble at the same meeting point each day and are driven to different locations each day, then you do not need to pay them to get to the meeting point.
  • However, if your hourly paid staff are required to travel to different locations, such as client sites, then you may be required to pay them for their travel time. You will need to agree what is reasonable travel time, so you might feel that it is not appropriate to pay them to travel via the school as they drop off their children, for example.
  • This change may impact on rest breaks too.  As the working day starts when they leave their house and ends when they return, this may take their total working time over a six hour day, which would then mean that they are entitled to a 20 minute break during the day.  In addition they need to have an 11 hour break between shifts, i.e. from arriving back home after work they need 11 hours before they leave for work again.
  • Also this change may affect overtime.  If you agree to pay overtime rates after a certain number of hours are worked each day, the hours spent travelling for peripatetic workers would be included in overall working hours and might on occasions take them into overtime.

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