Are business travellers “working” whilst they travel?

Recently, one of our prospects asked us about managing compensation for travel time via expense reports. This subject, which has been a bone of contention for years, is generally managed by HR, project management and payroll, and we have never been asked about it.  However, now we’re curious. Specifically, are business travellers “working” whilst they travel?
Remember, this is specifically about the time actually spent being transported from one place to another.
This is what the law has said since the judgment of the European Court of Justice on 10 September 2015, which Member States have gradually included in their local regulations:
Travel time between the home and the workplace is not considered as actual working time. The employer is not obliged to provide any compensation (except, in certain cases, partial reimbursement for the cost of commuting).
So, there’s no ambiguity here.
However, as our readers are well aware, in the case of business trips, the travel time can surpass the normal time spent commuting from the home to the usual workplace. This situation could arise, for example, in the following cases:

  • a meeting at one of the company’s other sites,
  • a meeting with a client in a location different to the usual workplace.

If this is the case, it is expected that the employee will be compensated (according to contract, a collective agreement or, failing that, by decision of the employer), in the form of either time off in lieu or financial compensation. The content of this compensation is fixed:

  • according to contract or agreement
  • in the absence of a contract or agreement, directly by the employer (after consultation with the works council or, failing that, with employee representatives, if there are any).

And, it is still worth remembering that the portion of this business travel time that coincides with working hours does not, of course, entail any loss in salary.
So the law seems to be clear; case law is starting to multiply in Europe and the sanctions appear to be severe. Business trips remain a complex area with high risk for companies, and we can only encourage our readers to take stock of developments in this area.

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