Tips for employers: When to pay an employee’s travel expenses

We often get the question: “Do I need to pay my employee for travel time?”  Unfortunately, there is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer.  A number of factors are involved, including when the employee is traveling, how the employee is traveling, and what is the employee doing at the destination.

Our HR team is happy to talk through any individual case you may have, but here are some guidelines on common situations:

Home-to-work travel:  Normal home-to-work travel is not compensable time.  However, if an employee is asked to travel to an alternate destination for work or to attend training, he or she should be compensated for any time that would be over and above normal home-to-work time.

(As a side note, any time spent in training sessions — whether it be during the employee’s regular work day or outside of the employee’s normal working hours — should be paid as hours worked if the employer has requested or required the training.)

Workday travel:  Time spent by an employee in travel as part of his or her principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked. Where an employee is required to report at a designated meeting place to receive instructions, perform other work or to pick up tools, travel from the designated place to the workplace is part of the day’s work and must be counted as hours worked regardless of contract, custom or practice.

Travel on a non-work day:  Even if the employee travels on a day he or she would not normally be scheduled (Sunday for example), if he is traveling for the benefit of the company during his normally scheduled work shift (between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., for example) that time would be considered time worked and should be paid accordingly.

Overtime:  Paid travel time is paid as worked time.  If an hourly (or non-exempt) employee has more than 40 hours in combined work and travel time, those hours must be paid at time and one half of the regular rate.

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Sue Kester, HR Manager