Should We Be Paid to Commute?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire last year for urging employees to “get back to work in the normal way” or risk being “gossiped about.” The implication that working from home would or should damage people’s career prospects was not appreciated.
This sparked a debate on whether or not workers are willing to go back to the daily commute and give up the time and money saved by working from home. A Totaljobs survey of Londoners found 67% had been able to add to their personal savings thanks to working from home, and 27% had been able to pay off debts and mortgages. If 2020 work trends continue, the average Londoner could save £14,309 over the course of their career.
Commuting also costs time, energy, and often sleep, leading to lower energy and reduced focus at work, especially for workers with disabilities. Flexible working can help to offset these costs by allowing people to fit their work to their sleep schedule and extracurricular activities, rather than vice versa.
Legally, employers have no obligation to pay workers for commuting unless it’s specified in their contract. For peripatetic workers such as travelling sales reps or care workers, travel time does legally count as part of their daily working time, but it’s still up to the employer to choose whether to pay them for it or not.
The key question is whether commuting time counts as “working time” under the NMW Regulations. These set out four different types of working time:
Salaried hours work [paid via a fixed annual salary]
Time work [paid per hour or per day]
Output work [paid per piece of work]
Unmeasured work [payment doesn’t fit any of the above]
These rules can be very confusing, so if you’re unsure whether you should be paid for your travel time, it’s best to seek expert advice. You can also find out more by visiting GOV.uk or the Citizens Advice Bureau.