Travel time can be ‘work time’ for employees with no fixed base
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that if employees don’t have a fixed place of work then the time they spend travelling from home to their first job of the day should be classed as work time.
The same principle applies to the time spent travelling back home after the last job of the day.
The issue arose out of a case involving engineers at a security company in Spain called Tyco. The company closed its regional offices and asked workers to travel from home to their allocated jobs in different locations. It said travel time to the first job of the day and back from last one should be considered as rest time. The engineers argued that it was work time.
The ECJ has ruled in their favour. It said: "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."
“During the necessary travelling time – which generally cannot be shortened – the workers are…not able to use their time freely and pursue their own interests.
“Where workers do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes working time.”
The ruling affects all companies in the European Union including the UK because it is based on the EU Working Time Arrangement. Of course, the ruling does not affect employees who have a fixed workplace.
Employers may wish to review their pay structures to ensure they are not breaching working time regulations.
Please contact Robert Bedford if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.