Wi-fi and smart phones confusing issue of work start and finish times

New research suggests that employees are dealing with work emails outside of office hours so regularly that they should be treated as part of the working day.

The study was looking specifically at the use of wi-fi on trains by commuters travelling in and out of London. It found that 54 per cent of passengers used the train's wi-fi to send work emails, and others were using their own mobile phone internet connections to do the same. It found that the trend applied to both the journey into work and at the end of the day, with morning travellers catching up on emails ahead of the start of the day, and evening travellers finishing off work they had started in the office.

Some of the commuters interviewed said that the time spent on the train was 'dead time' were they were unable to do very much anyway, but the researchers suggest that the trend raises issues about when the working day begins and ends. Their report says that the increasing availability of Wi-fi and mobile data connections has extending working hours for thousands of employees in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

On the issue of whether time spent reading or sending work emails outside of office hours should be treated as payable working hours, there are questions as to how employers would keep a track of this. Employers might only be prepared to consider such a move if there was increased surveillance and accountability.

Jamie Kerr of the Institute of Directors commented that "with the concept of clocking on and clocking off no longer straightforward, defining where leisure begins and work ends will be vital for both employers and individuals, as well as a complex task for regulators."

If you are an employee or employer in Northern Ireland requiring legal advice in respect of work related matter, contact one of the employment law solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast for advice and information by clicking here.