The recent European Court of Justice judgement ruled those without a fixed or habitual office should consider the travelling time they spend between their homes and the premises of their first and last jobs as part of their hours for the day.
The ruling relates to the Working Time Directive – the European initiative which caps the working week at 48 hours. In the UK, employees have the option of opting out of the directive.
This would mean that workers without a fixed office could charge their employers for how long their journeys take. It would also mean that employers of people such as electricians, gas fitters, sales reps for example, could find themselves in breach of EU working time regulations if they opted to not use a regional office.
The ECJ said that this new law would protect the health and safety of workers and be in line with the European Union’s Working Time Directive.
The court’s decision was in relation to a legal case in Spain that involved Tyco, a security systems company. But as the ruling relates to the EU’s working Time Directive, it would also affect UK employers.
This decision affects those workers who do not have a set workplace such as plumbers, electricians and those working in care and will impact how weekly hours and breaks are worked out. It could mean that employers have to pay their staff for travelling time.
The judgement does not affect those workers who have a fixed place of work.
The court said that many workers are having to start and finish their journeys at their homes because their employer made the decision to close down the regional offices. It was not a choice of the employee. The court felt that workers were having to carry the burden of their employer’s choice and is contrary to the objective of protecting workers’ health and safety, such as guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.
The unions welcomed this decision saying that although many employers are already reasonable to their staff when it comes to travel time, it will mean that the more unscrupulous bosses wouldn’t be able to force their staff to work exceptionally long hours.
Where travelling time is not paid by all employers, it means that some workers, such as home care workers for example, have not been receiving the minimum wages as the time it takes them to travel between people’s homes has been unpaid.
Following this ruling, the Government said that they were concerned that it would result in higher costs for businesses and that will carry out a review of the implications of the judgement.