What the DOL’s Clarification of Travel Time Pay Means for Scheduling

January 27, 2021 | 457 views

What the DOL’s Clarification of Travel Time Pay Means for Scheduling
What the DOL’s Clarification of Travel Time Pay Means for Scheduling

The US Department of Labor (DOL) claims to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners…” As business owners and managers, we are all affected by DOL rulings on topics that impact our employees and, by association, our businesses. The policies and procedures we follow regarding hourly pay minimums, breaks and lunch schedules, and safety regulations originate with the DOL.

Recently, the DOL clarified the situations when an hourly employee must be paid for the time that person spends traveling to or from a worksite. Normally, the time used by an employee to commute from home to work does not qualify for wages. However, the DOL has exceptions to this that could mightily affect your expenses and scheduling practices.

Do you need to be paying your employees as they travel to a job site? You might have to if you have construction sites, mobile health care workers, tradesmen, or anyone whose travel to specific but varied worksites are necessary and integral to the performance of the work they do. Several scenarios of when wages would be required are expertly outlined here for you to consider.

What is clear is how the DOL regulation affects the scheduling of employees because payroll is often the single largest business expense. As much as we value our employees, we must consider the considerable financial impact of paying some of them for travel-time when we ask them to travel to a specific job site.

  1. Overtime accumulation. An employee who spends an hour traveling to and from a site each day will have to work shorter hours at the actual site to avoid overtime. These rules vary by state, but overtime pay will start sooner when travel time is factored into the hours “worked.”
  2. Driving restrictions. For heavy equipment operators, truckers, or other drivers, there are maximum hours allowed and minimum rest times that factor into scheduling. The safety protocols to ensure enough rest for drivers and operators are calculated based on an employee’s primary job function and total hours in a shift. So a large machinery operator may not provide as many productive hours when we must pay for travel time to a job site.
  3. Lunches and breaks. A shift is a shift, so the start time and total hours affect the minutes needed for employee breaks and lunches, paid or not (as determined by local law). The time commuting would count toward hours worked, thereby forcing an earlier lunch (and more minutes of paid breaks).
  4. Accrual of sick time, vacation, or PTO. No matter how you have established policies for paid time off, the plans are probably based on the number of hours an employee works. When we start adding in extra hours for travel time, employees will accrue paid time off more quickly while, at the same time, providing fewer productive hours to the business.

The financial impact of paying for travel time goes beyond simply the extra hours of paid wages. As we review scheduling options, we must consider the additional payroll cost caused by paying for employee travel time. Wage and labor law is complicated, and scheduling is only one part of it. Seek legal advice to ensure compliance for all related federal and local requirements as you navigate your way through paid travel time for employees.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. For many years, Atlas Business Solutions has been named one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies.

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