An employee’s obligation to carry out travel related to their tasks depends on what has been agreed on the matter. An employee may give their consent to travel in the employment contract, in which case they may not subsequently refuse to travel without breaching the terms and conditions of the employment relationship. On the other hand, an employee may also be obligated to work only at a single place of work. If the work is not meant to include any travel at all, it is advisable for the employment contract to include a clause stating that the employee is not obligated to travel outside their actual place of work.
In principle, employees are not obligated to travel during their free time. There are two significant exceptions to this ground rule. An employee must basically always complete the journey between their home and their actual place of work during their free time. This is not usually considered a problem. However, if the employee has more than one agreed place of work located at a significant distance from each other, travel between these places of work may result in limitations on free time. The employee may, for example, have to begin travelling on a Sunday for a place of work in which work begins at 9 a.m. The journey cannot, however, be refused in situations that involve several places of work. The journey is not considered part of working hours.
Travel can also take place during free time when the employee is obligated to make the journeys necessary for carrying out the work that cannot be taken care of during the agreed regular working hours. For example, if an employee who has agreed to daily working hours of 7.5 hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. is assigned to a business trip with a destination on the other side of the world, they cannot factually travel only within regular working hours, when even a single continuous flight exceeds the regular working hours. Even so, the employee may not refuse to go on the business trip.
The Working Hours Act – or any other act, for that matter – does not obligate employers to compensate employees for travel taking place during free time. Some collective agreements include agreements on such compensation. If no collective agreement applies, it is advisable to negotiate the compensation in the employment contract. Compensation for travel should be agreed on before the journey begins.
Travel during working hours means a journey made within the agreed regular working hours. It is important to note that, even when travel takes place during working hours, the time spent on it is not counted as working hours in terms of, say, the accumulation of overtime. If an employee travels for a full working day of 7.5 hours, they have not carried out any work as referred to in the Working Hours Act during the day in question.
A situation in which the employee has not agreed on the time of day during which their working hours take place presents its own problems. The law does not provide that agreed working hours should begin in the morning. If the employment contract states 7.5 hours and an obligation to travel, it is possible that the employee must first travel to the place of work, and only after this work for the agreed amount of working hours. In this scenario, the working day can become very long indeed, even though the employee only works for the agreed amount of hours.
The law does not obligate employers to pay the compensation for expenses or per diem allowances provided in the Income Tax Act. The amounts confirmed by the Tax Administration only constitute the maximum amounts of tax-exempt compensation.
This type of compensation is often agreed upon in collective agreements. If no collective agreement applies, it is advisable to include a clause on compensation for expenses in the employment contract.