The Long Haul to Work: Are you Entitled to be Paid for your Commute?

For some very fortunate employees, it does not take very long to arrive at work. If you’re lucky, maybe you live right around the corner. For those less fortunate employees who are not so lucky to live close to work, actually getting to and from work can consume a significant portion of your day – in some cases, even many hours. It can be frustrating, driving through traffic, waiting for busses and trains, climbing down the stairs to the subway, especially in bad weather.

It would be less frustrating, perhaps, if you were being paid for it. But, are you entitled to be paid for your commuting time?

Unfortunately, according to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, and most likely based on the majority of employment contracts, the answer is no. This is because the time you spend commuting to and from work is not considered “work time”. Generally speaking, “work time” is any time where the employee is actually working or where the employee is not working but is required to stay at the workplace.
Commuting time, on the other hand, is the time it takes for an employee to get to work from home and vice versa. This is not considered work time for the purposes of the ESA. As a result, you are not entitled to be paid for this time.

Exceptions: When you can be paid for Commuting Time

However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule. These include:

  1. ) Where an employee drives home in a work vehicle for the convenience of the employer, the “work time” begins when the employee leaves home in the morning and ends when they arrive home at the end of the day.
  2. ) Where an employee is required to transport other staff or supplied to or from the workplace or work site, that time spent travelling will be considered work time for ESA purposes.
  3. ) Where an employee usually works in one location but is required to travel to another, separate location to actually perform their work, the time spent travelling to and from that other workplace would be considered work time for ESA purposes.
Example Case

In Tradium Mechanical Inc. v Abdellatif Jaidane, the Ontario Labour Relations Board confirmed the above. In this case, employees were provided with a work vehicle and were permitted to use that vehicle for commuting to and from work. They were not, however, required to use the work vehicle for that purpose. The Board found that the employees were not using the work vehicle for the convenience of the employer as required in point one, above. Rather, the Board found that employees have an obligation to get from home to work however the employee chooses to. Using a work vehicle rather than a personal vehicle does not make a difference unless the employee is using the work vehicle for the employer’s convenience.

If the employees in this case were required to use the work vehicle for the purpose of commuting, they may very well have been entitled to pay for the time spent commuting.