Employees spend nearly 200 hours a year travelling to and from work – adding up to around five weeks’ extra work – according to a TUC analysis of official statistics published today to mark the start of Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart week (14-18 November).

The TUC study found that the average commute times for men are 26% greater than for women – an average of 6.2 minutes longer on each commuting journey. Men spend an average of 219 hours commuting per year, compared to 174 hours for women – a gap of 45 hours over the 12 months.

London has the longest commute times for both male and female workers at 37.8 minutes per journey each way, while Northern Ireland has the shortest at 22.4 minutes.

A recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that workers with the longest commutes tend to earn more than those with shorter journeys to work.

The TUC is calling on employers to offer flexible working options to help staff cut down on commutes.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Unnecessary long commutes are frustrating and expensive for staff, and bad for business too.

“Smarter working must be part of the modern economy. Staff want greater access to flexible and high quality home-working and employers need to do more to provide it.

“The link between long commutes and better pay is a concern as it can discriminate against women, who still bear the greatest share of childcare responsibilities, and do more than their fair share of work in the home. Eliminating the need for long commutes can also broaden access to a wider range of jobs for those unable to travel from home.

“With the 2012 Olympics set to bring many more people to the UK, employers and unions should consider how they can work together to manage the expected congestion and cut out some of these unnecessary rush-hour journeys.”

Chief Executive of Work Wise UK Phil Flaxton said: “In this day and age, old working practices dictating that employees must travel vast distances to sit at a desk every day are outdated.

“British workers are frustrated at the amount of wasted time caused by long, arduous journeys to and from work. Smart commuting, flexi-time and remote working can offer an ideal solution, giving a range of benefits for employees and employers alike.

“Not only is the amount of time commuting an issue, the 9 to 5 culture with its peak travel times generates congestion on the rail, underground and road networks and as a consequence, increases stress for commuters.”