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European Court Rules Mobile Workers Travel Time Counts as Work

Last week, a European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision found that, for workers with no usual place of work, time spent travelling to appointments from home should form part of a worker’s working day. The ruling came about because of an ongoing legal case in Spain involving a company called Tyco, which installs security systems.At present, working time is defined in The Working Time Regulations as:

• Any period during which the worker is working at his or her employer’s disposal and carrying out his or her activity or duties;
• Any period during which he or she is receiving relevant training; and
• Any additional period designated as working time under a relevant agreement.

Working time includes travelling where it is an integral part of the job, e.g. a travelling sales executive or a care worker. This includes travel during normal working hours and travel between sites or clients, since the travelling is an essential part of the work.

The Working Time Directive

The Working Time Directive sets down regulations on matters such as how long employees work, how many breaks they have, and how much holiday they are entitled to. One of its main goals is to ensure that no employee in the EU is obliged to work more than an average of 48 hours a week.

In its ruling, the ECJ said time spent travelling to and from their first and last appointments should be regarded as working time under the European Working Time Directive. The judgment explained that excluding those journeys from working time would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers upheld by EU law.

A groundbreaking decision

This is an important decision for employers with mobile workers, i.e. those without a fixed place of work. Such employers will need to consider how they calculate working time – for example, in relation to the maximum weekly working hours, which could mean that employers will have to ask staff to opt out of the Working Time Directive’s 48-hour working week.

If employers don’t do this, employees could quickly exceed the number of working hours that they are legally allowed to work and employers could find that they are operating illegally and at risk of facing costly claims against them.

Although this case was not concerned with remuneration, there still may be wage implications for employers. For instance, employees may argue that time spent travelling to and from their home for customer visits should count for the calculation of the national minimum wage.

Employers may, therefore, wish to give thought to scheduling the first and last customer visits of the day close to a worker’s home.

Do you employ mobile workers? How will these changes potentially affect your business? Please join the debate in the comments section below.

By Iain Mackintosh

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