11 September 2015
The European Court of Justice has ruled that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office should be regarded as working time.
The implication is that many companies employing care workers, tradesmen and other workers who routinely travel as part of their duties, may be in breach of EU working time regulations.
The court says it is protecting the health and safety of workers as stipulated in the working time directive, which aims to ensure no one is obliged to work more than an average of 48 hours a week.
The judgement states; “The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.
“Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.”
The ruling came in response to a case in Spain wherein Tyco, a burglar alarm installation company, counted the employees’ workday as starting at the clients premises – despite some workers driving for up to three hours a day.
British government lawyers had attempted to argue that classifying driving time as working time could be abused by dishonest employees, but judges dismissed this, saying it falls to the companies to prevent abuse.
They said the judgement “cannot be called into question by the argument of the United Kingdom Government that it would lead to an inevitable increase in costs, in particular, for Tyco.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Many bosses are already fair-minded about travel time for journeys to customers. But this sensible ruling will prevent unscrupulous employers opening up a loophole to force some staff to work upwards of 60 hours a week.”