Note: this article was first written by our colleagues at Solve HR, before Solve HR joined Law At Work in March 2020. We have imported this...
Often employers have to manage employees travelling long distances to places that are not their normal place of work, including overseas. Questions will appear over what an organisation's commitment should be with regards to working time, transport, health and safety and paying for travelling time. If the correct policies and procedures are not in place, this could cause problems and disputes, which may prove quite costly for employers - both in time and money!
Travelling to work from home and back again is generally speaking not classed as working time, under the Working Time Regulations 1998. This is any period during which workers: Are carrying out their duties, and working at their employer's disposal Are receiving 'relevant training' It is also known to be additional periods which would be agreed between an employer and employee to be working time in a relevant agreement, for e.g. contract of employment.
As stated above travelling to work from home and back again is not classed as working time, however if you travel from home on work business, or travelling during working hours for business purposes this will usually count as working time. Any travel taken out with working hours will also be counted as working time, if it is work related. It is therefore important that employers make and retain the correct record of employee's working time to prevent regulations being breached. It should also be monitored for members of staff who travel frequently and who may not have opted out of the 48 hour working week.
The next question is whether travel time should be paid' Hourly paid staff should be given time off in lieu for any business travel outside their normal working hours. Their entitlement may be found in their contract of employment, and if not this should be agreed between the employer and employee. This pay should not fall below the National Minimum Wage, which has some different rules on what is 'working time' according to the most recent government guidance on calculating the minimum wage. For salaried staff the payment for travel out with working hours is less common but it still depends on what their contract of employment states. They may be entitled to time of in lieu or overtime. This is also something which can be agreed between the employer and employee if this is not covered in the employee's contract of employment. Any travel expenses should be directed by clear policies and procedures, and in order to prevent any disputes over entitlement all employee's should be made aware of these. There are a variety of different options that can meet the needs of the employer, for example; the employer may wish to set rules that the employee must use the most economical means of transport available, travel by standard class, have caps on meals, and drinks and overnight accommodation reimbursement. This does also have to be weighed up against the best interests and welfare of the employees travelling, especially if long distances and working soon after arrival is expected.
Policies should remind employees about anti bribery laws and employer rules on gifts and hospitality, more so if travel abroad is required. If an employee travels regularly, the employer should also carry out relevant risk assessments. Frequent travel can have a negative effect on an employee's health, which could in turn lead to sickness absence and reduced productivity. Ensure rest breaks are given to those employees who drive regularly and eyesight should be tested regularly also. If employee's make use of their own vehicles for work, there should be procedures in place to ensure the vehicle is; appropriately insured, regularly checked and the employer should be updated of any fines and endorsements the employee may have. Using mobile phones while driving, drink driving, drug driving etc. should also be covered in Policies. Policies and Procedures should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are up to date and reflect practice.