Should Employees Get Paid for Working While Commuting?

Some say time spent checking email and making client calls should be on the clock

20 September 2018

Many employees who commute to work via bus, train, or subway use that time to answer email, call clients, or take care of items on their to-do list. Most don’t consider that to be work time, but some believe they should.

A survey of commuters conducted by researchers at the University of the West of England found that more than half read their work email or business documents on their trip. Most people who participated in the study didn’t consider the tasks part of their work time but as a way to lighten their workload.

A court case decided last year by a European tribunal ruled that in Norway, some employees could count their commute as work time because they are at the disposal of their employer.

France’s highest court in July ordered a British company to compensate one of its former workers, who was required to be available by phone at all times to answer questions from clients and staff.


Since January 2017, French law has determined that companies with 50 or more employees must regulate the use of email to ensure employees get a break from the office. The so-called right to disconnect prohibits those companies from requiring workers to respond to work-related electronic communications after hours or during vacations. The French government cited a study by the Éléas consulting firm that showed about a third of professionals use their work computers and phones outside office hours.

A New York City councilman introduced a similar right-to-disconnect bill in March. It would make it unlawful for private employers to require workers to check and respond to email and text messages during nonwork hours, except in emergencies. The legislation would not prohibit employers or employees from communicating or doing work voluntarily.

For those who do work outside normal hours, what do you think the rules should be? Should it be a worker’s choice whether to answer email or text messages during off-hours? And do you think employees should be compensated for the work they do during their commute?

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