The commute to and from work has long been an unavoidable part of the work day. For people around London and the larger UK cities, the commute continues to grow in terms of time spent. So many people are now using this commute to do work-related activities including handling emails and preparing for the day ahead. The question is then – should people be paid for their commute time when they are working?
The commute workload
According to a study from the University of the West of England, commuters regularly make use of free Wi-Fi on trains so they can do some work before the day begins or finish up tasks after it has ended. Their survey of 5,000 rail commuters found that many would deal with emails received during the day or catch up on work not completed. And the more trains that had free Wi-Fi available, the more people were working on their commute.
This need to use trains as mobile work spaces could have interesting impacts on the future of the network, especially if travel time were to count as part of paid work. It could ease problems at peak times, allowing people to commute at different times of the day. However, the train providers would need to ensure high-quality Wi-Fi, space to work and power access at each table.
The current situation
At the moment, the situation for employers is somewhat vague. The European courts have been looking at issues about the commute along with on-call time, overtime and sickness and holiday pay for some time. They seem to be moving towards the importance of the work-life balance for employees that could mean employers are recommended to consider making changes.
One example came from a ruling in Norway. They decided that time spent working, including being at the employer’s disposal or carrying out their activities or duties count as work time. In this situation, when the employee is carrying out work-related tasks on their commute, they would need to be paid for this.
How to handle it
Here in the UK, there is an acknowledgement that changing working practices mean that employers need new guidelines. Employees no longer simply clock on, work then clock off and this means there are considerations around paying them for this work.
If employers plan to take working while commuting into account as work time, there are a few matters to decide. For starters, is this considered overtime and therefore would it be paid at a higher rate? If it doesn’t count as overtime, is the employee still receiving national minimum or living wage with the extra hours they are working?
Another consideration is the implications of working on public Wi-Fi networks. Are there any issues around GDPR and the risk of confidential information being accessed while staff work on their commute? This may mean that guidelines are introduced about what work can be done while commuting and what must be done when safe behind a certain level of internet security to avoid a data breach.
Being based in London, Trace Payroll understand the daily commute all too well. For more advice and updates regarding employee wellbeing, contracts and payroll speak to us today by calling us on 0845 873 5619 or you can use our contact form.