We Brits are known for our long working hours culture, but now it seems we’re not only spending more time in the office than any of our European colleagues we’re also spending a lot more time actually getting to and from the workplace every day.
A report published today by the TUC has revealed that almost 3 million UK workers now face a daily commute of two or more hours – up from 1.7 million in 2004. Of these, 880,000 travel at least three hours each day, or 15 hours a week – up from just half a million a decade ago.
According to the report’s authors soaring housing prices and the lack of spending on roads and railways are the major causes of these longer commutes, with workers located in the South East, South West, East Midlands and Wales hardest hit.
And it’s women who are facing the brunt.
More and more women returning to the workplace after their maternity leave sooner than they once did, partly to ensure that their careers remain on track but also because of the need to protect their jobs in the first place.
Indeed, a study published by the EHRC in July of this this year found that many British women face discrimination when they return to work, with an estimated 54,000 losing their jobs following their pregnancy – twice the number than in 2005. This, according to today’s report by the TUC, has led to a 131% rise in the number of women undertaking a commute of three hours or more each day.
TUC General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers need to address the problem that many of their staff are spending an ever-increasing number of hours getting to and from work.
“More home and flexi-working could easily be introduced to allow people to cut their commutes and save money. This would not only be popular with workers, but fewer, better-spaced journeys would help to beat overcrowding on the roads and railways.”
Phil Flaxton, chief executive of campaign group Work Wise, said: “Employers should grasp this opportunity by changing the way employees work and commute and introduce more flexibility to cut out these restrictive influences on business performance as well as the wellbeing of their employees.”
There are health implications to a long daily commute too.
The Telegraph today ran with a story related to a new study conducted by Harvard University. The researchers found that ditching the car and eating homemade meals could significantly reduce the risk of commuters contracting diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
It found that people who used daily public transport instead of the car were 34 per cent less likely to have diabetes, 27 per cent less likely have high blood pressure and 44 per cent less likely to be overweight.