top of page

06 / Unpaid travel time

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

When you look at the average hourly rates of pay for homecare (see 'social care: domiciliary' in figure 1) compared to other low-paid jobs, you’ll notice it appears to pay more generously then if, say, you took up a job in a care home or in textiles:

Yet homecare workers are often only paid for the time they spend face-to-face with clients, not for their time spent travelling from one client to the next. This means that the overall, true hourly rate of pay is always lower than the contracted hourly rate. In order to be paid a certain number of working hours, you must spend more time at work than expected. This has a detrimental impact on the work-life balance of homecare workers.

As you can see on figure 2, median weekly pay is in fact lower in domiciliary care than residential care, reflecting the impact of unpaid travel time on hourly rates of pay:

What does official guidance have to say about this? Here’s a screenshot from the government’s HMRC website, which states that "travelling in connection with work, including travelling from one work assignment to another" counts as working time:

The HMRC webpage then uses the example of homecare work to illustrate their point:

According to the above guidance from the government, there is no question that travel time should be paid. So how come travel time is rarely paid?

As long as a worker's overall hourly rate of pay does not fall below the National Minimum Wage once travel time is taken into account, their employer is legally in the clear:

“It is not unlawful for care workers to have their travel time between appointments unpaid, so long as their total pay averages out at or above the appropriate minimum wage rate once travel time is factored in” (Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, 2022)

What this does mean, is that the hourly rates of pay advertised by home care agencies are misleading. If your travel time is unpaid, you will not be paid the hourly rate it states on your contract once all of your working time is taken into account:

“A typical domiciliary care worker earning £11.07 per hour and spending the average amount of time travelling between clients (20 per cent of their ‘contact time’ – equivalent to 12 minutes for each contact hour) would have an effective hourly rate of £9.20, 30p an hour below the adult minimum wage” (Cominetti, 2023, p.4)

Not all employers are in the clear when it comes to unpaid working time for home care workers:

“The analysis suggests that there are at least between 10 and 13% of care workers who are effectively being paid under the National Minimum Wage in England” (Hussein, 2017, p.1817)

As it stands, employees are responsible for calculating their own overall hourly rate of pay, which varies from one shift to the next. It is unrealistic and inappropriate for such a responsibility to be placed with individual employees. For every shift, you must note all the visit times on a given shift, work out the total amount of working time including time spent travelling and divide the amount you are paid by the true number of hours you have worked. This will give you your real-terms hourly rate.

To help homecare workers find out whether it is worth raising their concerns with their employer, or seeking formal legal advice, Homecare Workers' Group has developed a true hourly pay calculator, which works out the true hourly rate of pay for a specific shift.

Please register your interest in our true hourly pay calculator here.

It is worth noting that there have been successful cases where home care workers have pursued legal action against their employer due to unpaid working time:

“the domiciliary care sector has a relatively large number of minimum wage underpayment cases, and of successful cases, than other sectors” (Cominetti, 2023, p.29)
“With basic rates of pay within 15% of the National Minimum Wage, any failure to pay travel time can take workers below their legal entitlement”...“A report by HMRC called ‘National Minimum Wage Compliance in the Social Care Sector’ has found high levels of noncompliance. 183 investigations were completed between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2013, in where 47% were found to not comply with the NMW. The result was £338,845 in arrears for 2443 workers. The highest value arrears owed to any single worker was £11,223.64”...“The law is clear about payment for travel time. It claims that, unless a person is genuinely self employed, travel for the purposes of duties carried out in the course of work will be required to be paid at least the Minimum Wage (excluding the first and last journeys during any particular period of duty)” (Kingsmill, 2014, p.24)
“In Europe, recent legal cases under the European Working Time Directive have also challenged the non-payment of homecare workers’ time spent travelling between home visits” (MacDonald et al. 2018, p.83)

So, if you suspect you may be getting paid below the National Minimum Wage once travel time is taken into account, it could be well worth looking into this.

Register your interest in our true hourly pay calculator and find out what legal support is available to you.

Supporting quotes:

“Our focus groups made clear that it is rare for domiciliary care workers to be paid for their travel time” (Cominetti, 2023, p.4)
“In England, homecare workers have typically been paid only for contact time with care recipients and have not been paid for much of the work they perform, including the time they travel between private residences where they provide care. This has been considered to be wage theft and recent legal challenges to the practice have strengthened regulation specifying that travel between work assignments must be paid” (MacDonald et al. 2018, p.83)
“evidence suggests a considerable proportion of LTC (long-term care) employers in the UK do not account for travel time between home care visits, which is a legal entitlement for workers according to the HMRC. In general, work time calculations appear to systematically underestimate actual working time, with most wages calculated based only on “contact time”” (Hussein, 2017, p.1818)
“Frequently, even the National Minimum Wage is ignored, with employers unlawfully refusing to pay Domiciliary Workers for the time to travel in between their clients” (Kingsmill, 2014, p.3)
“Evasion of the National Minimum Wage comes in many forms. Officially, the majority of Care Workers are paid a basic rate within 15% of their legal entitlement. Hourly rates for Domiciliary Workers, however, are often depressed when the lack of payment for travel time in between visiting different clients is taken into account” (Kingsmill, 2014, p.24)As it stands, employees are responsbile for calculating their own overall hourly rate of pay, which varies from one shift to the next. It is unrealistic and inappropriate for such a responsibility to be placed with individual employees

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page