23rd March 2022

When is travelling time, working time?

On those days I work from home my morning commute is great. I wake up, get dressed and navigate the obstacles between the bedroom and my home office. It takes about 2 minutes. But not everyone is as lucky as me. For some others the commute is longer, say 20-30 minutes or potentially over an hour. In addition, their commute might not necessarily take them to their usual place of work, but to that of a customer. It might also be that there is a requirement to pick up a colleague if they share a work van. Does any of that count towards the worker’s working time for the purposes of the working time regulations (WTR)?

We are frequently asked questions like this, so blog 3 in my WTR series explores the concept of travel time and the WTR.

What is travel time?

Annoyingly, travel time is not defined in the WTR. Unless there is a different definition in a collective agreement (for example), we have to look to the general definition of working time in the WTR and see if that applies to the specific task (particular type of travel) being undertaken.

The WTR says that time is working time when the worker is:

  1. Working and
  2. Carrying out their duties and
  3. At the employer’s disposal.

How does this work in practice?

Fixed place of work

If I am travelling into my usual Blackadders office (where I am normally based) to work, that commute is not working time. While potentially I could be working and possibly carrying out my duties (say checking emails), I am not at my employer’s disposal as I could be doing something else (reading the paper, listening to a podcast or planning that evening’s meal). On that basis, I am not fulfilling all of the three criteria, so it is unlikely that my travel time will be working time in that scenario.

Peripatetic/no fixed place of work

Contrast me with a plumber who has no fixed place of work but is provided with a list of jobs for the day ahead by his boss. He has to travel from his home to the first job which is in a different town. The travel time here is working time. He has not chosen to go this appointment but rather it has been set by the employer. He is therefore at the employer’s disposal during this time and is working and carrying out his duties as he has to be at the appointment for a specific time (set by the employer) ready to start the job for the customer.

Pick up

In another scenario a worker might have to drive to a particular site each day. On the way, she has to pick up a colleague in the work van to take them. Again, in this scenario that driving time is likely to be working time because she is carrying out a task for the employer (picking up her colleague) and so she is working, carrying out duties and at the employer’s disposal.

The reason the distinction is important is because the driving time can count towards the worker’s working time and the employer has a legal duty to make sure that the worker’s working time does not exceed an average of 48 hours a week (usually taken over a 17 week period). It is therefore very important to make sure that you are considering any travel time for this purpose.

If you have any question about this, or any employment law topic, why not sign up for our monthly Ask The Expert webinars? Alternatively, please contact any member of the Blackadders Employment Team operating across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. We would be happy to help.

Blair Duncan, Solicitor


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